Orders of the Day — London Passenger Transport (Re-Committed) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 29th November 1932.
I beg to move,
That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
I move this Motion to keep myself in order, because it has been represented to me that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if a short explanation of the Amendment and of the general principles of the Bill could be given. When I entered the House to-day, it was intimated to me that a great many hon. Members knew very little about this Bill and that, if a statement could be made of certain principles of it, many who were hearing about it for the first time would appreciate such an opportunity. The first thing I should like to say is that there have been many claims in the Press and elsewhere as to the authorship of this Measure. My own view is that the word" authorship" does not apply to the Bill at all.
The hon. Member has stated the point that I was about to make." Entrepreneur," if you like; "editor," if you like; but this Bill is the result of at least 15 years of hard work by a Royal Commission, committees, Ministers of Transport in successive Governments, and last, but by no means least, the earnest and industrious work of the civil servants in the Ministry of Transport and elsewhere. The Bill sets out to do a very great work indeed. It sets out to co-ordinate under a unified control and ownership the passenger traffic of the greatest urban population of the world. It differs from previous Measures in one respect in that it unifies the ownership in addition to co-ordinating the control. The changes which are proposed I shall deal with in a few moments, but, as I am anxious not to occupy much time, I will very briefly describe roughly the basic principles.
The Bill provides, first, for the establishment of a public Board charged with the duty of providing adequate travelling facilities throughout the London traffic area; secondly, the vesting in the Board of all the local passenger transport agencies serving that area, excepting those belonging to the main line railways; thirdly, it provides—and I wish the Committee to take particular notice of this—for the provision of such safeguards and machinery as would ensure that the Board would be kept in touch with, and be receptive of, public opinion with regard to the facilities to be provided and the fares to be charged. It. provides for the setting up of a Joint Committee of representatives of the Board and the main line railways operating suburban lines. Changes are being proposed by these Amendments to the Bill since it last appeared in this House. They are of considerable importance, and, with the permission of the Committee, I will deal with two of the chief ones. I refer to the method of appointing the Board and the composition of the Board itself. The first Amendment is preliminary to those which follow, and provides for the setting up of a body of Appointing Trustees. The adoption of this procedure makes it necessary that they shall act expeditiously. This Amendment, together with the remaining Government Amendments to Clause 1, give effect to the proposals set out in the White Paper circulated last July, and in addition, provide for the establishment of a Board.
Are we to understand that on this Motion to report Progress we have a right to discuss the whole merits and principle of the Bill?
Certainly not. But I think it is in Order and for the general convenience of the Committee to outline the main intentions of the Government in the Amendments which they have on the Paper.
May I ask whether, in those circumstances, it will be equally open to Members of this House to enlarge upon the merits of the Amendments which they themselves have on the Paper?
I do not think the question of the merits of the Amendment, should be gone into in this discussion at all.
The Minister is giving us a general sketch of the Bill and a general outline of alterations which he is making. Those alterations raise matters of very great moment, and I submit to you that if we are to have what practically amounts to a Second Reading speech, other Members in this House should be allowed the opportunity of stating their general attitude to the changes.
On that point of Order, may I say that the course which my hon. Friend adopted of moving to report Progress was adopted for the general convenience of the Committee. It was intended—and I hope that the Committee will assent to this—to remind hon. Members that the Bill had been before a Joint Committee of this House—[HON. MEMBERS:" No, the last House"]—of this House of Commons and the other House, and that two main Amendments are proposed to be made. I hope it will be agreed that that is a much more convenient course, but if the Committee desires immediately to proceed to the first Amendment without any indication of the main Amendments which the Minister proposes to make, we shall be quite agreeable, with your consent, Sir Dennis, to adopt that course, though I hope the Committee will realise that the course which my hon. Friend has taken was intended for the convenience and for the assistance of the Committee, and not with a view to burking any Debate which, of course, will arise on the Amendments when we reach them.
On the point of Order raised by the hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) and the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), it is quite obvious that we cannot have anything like a Second Reading Debate on the Bill on this Motion. It is equally obvious, I think, that we cannot have a discussion on the merits of the Amendments, which will be discussed when we reach them. But it is by no means out or order, nor is it, I think, uncommon in this House, where a Committee is dealing with a somewhat complicated Measure for the Minister in charge of the Bill to move to report Progress, in order to make a statement which is rather wider than he could make on the particular Amendment in question, so that the Committee may understand the connection between that Amendment and other Amendments which follow. I do not propose to allow—and naturally the Minister would not expect to be allowed —to go into any question on its merits, but as he has moved to report Progress, he is quite in order in making his statement, which is not in the nature of a controversial statement, or otherwise it could not be made.
As the Minister, in what he has said, already has shown that the alterations to the Bill are so different from anything in the Bill which went before the Joint Select Committee, shall I be in order in moving that the present Bill be recommitted to that Select Committee?
No, the hon. and learned Member certainly could not do it now. We have already entered upon the Committee stage.
May I point out to you, Sir Dennis, that the Motion to report Progress was made before we entered upon the Committee stage? My suggestion is that I should be in order, either now or at the conclusion of the Minister's observations, to move that the Bill be recommitted to the Select Committee.
In the first place, the hon. and learned Member is not quite accurate. As it was my duty, I called Clause 1, and therefore we have entered upon the Committee stage. It would not be in the power of this Committee to order that this Bill be recommitted to a Select Committee. That is a thing which can only be done by the House and not by this Committee.
Shall we be allowed on this Motion to discuss the origin of this particular Bill'?
On this Motion to report Progress I cannot allow any discussion which enters into any question of the merits of the Bill. I have already indicated that, in my view, the statement which the Minister proposes to make on this Motion should not be of such a controversial nature.
If the Motion were that the Bill be not further proceeded with, it would be competent on that Motion to give reasons for not further proceeding with it which would relate to the structure of the Bill?
That would not be the appropriate Motion. The hon. Member has got his opportunity if he chooses of dividing and voting in favour of the Motion to report Progress.
In accepting your Ruling which, of course, I do, there has been no complaint of the Motion before the House for merely an explanation, but may I ask at what stage can the House debate the general effect produced by the first important Amendment which the Government propose to move? Will you be able to allow a wide Debate on the effect of the first of the Amendments, which will alter the general structure and the general principle of the Bill?
I cannot, on the first Amendment or any other Amendment, allow any discussion on this Bill wider than in the Committee stage of any other Bill. It seems to me, if I may say so, that hon. Members have got in their minds ideas of doing things which might be done by the House but certainly could not be done in Committee.
Obviously, as very wide changes are being made by the Amendments which the Government propose, the Committee should have some opportunity of discussing those changes and their effect on the Bill. Can you indicate at what point such a discussion might take place?
Where there is a series of Amendments directed to one end, it is quite clear that there must be ample discussion on the effect of the Amendments as a whole. I may remind the right hon. and gallant Member also that there will be an opportunity for discussion on each Clause of the Bill on the Question," That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
May I ask for your guidance on this question of reporting Progress? Will Members of the Committee be permitted, not, of course, to discuss the principle of the Bill, but to give reasons why they consider it to the advantage of the House and the Committee that we should report Progress definitely on this matter to-day?
While this Motion is before the House, will it be in order for Members of the Committee to continue the discussion along the lines and the width already initiated by the Minister of Transport?
I am afraid it might take almost as long to answer as some hon. Members' speeches if I endeavoured to say what could be said and what could not be said. I can only indicate to some extent the lines which I consider relevant on this particular Motion. I think hon. Members must leave it to me to see how far they can be allowed to go.
At the moment when the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) intervened, I had reached the stage of saying that we were prepared to make changes in regard to the method of appointment of the board through the appointing trustees, and that we were proposing to increase the number of members of the board from five to seven and to provide that two of those seven should be persons with special experience in local government work. That was as far as I wished to go, and I made that statement because I thought it might be for the convenience of Members of the Committee. There is no idea of taking advantage of this Motion in any way, and I trust that the Committee will agree that my statement has been brief and also to the point.
It seems to me that, if we were in a position at the present minute to report Progress, we should be able to get on with the work of the House of Commons on some other matter. This Motion to report Progress affords a definite means of ending a Debate for a certain time, and then the usual channels can come into operation and things can be arranged either in one way or in another. I have no wish in any sense to delay the work of this particular Government. I do not say that I have always been innocent in these matters in the past, but from what I hear from a good many people, and particularly from new Members, I think it is very difficult for the average Member of Parliament to realise the position to-day, when we are suddenly called upon, in the most extraordinary circumstance of this Bill being carried over from a previous Session, to deal with the Bill in the way in which we are now asked to deal with it.
There is on the Order Paper a large collection of Amendments. I do not pretend to have read them, but I have tried to see where they lead, and it seems to me that before we can deal with those Amendments—I will not discuss the principle of any one of them at the present moment—it is absolutely essential that we should be given the clearest understanding as to why the Government think it is necessary to proceed in any way with this Bill at the present time. As far as I understood the original Bill, there was very great feeling in our party about it. If I may state one point as to the popularity or otherwise of the original Bill, which in due course we may or may not amend, I believe that, while there were eight or nine Members who spoke in favour of the Second Reading of that Bill, only one of them survives in the House at the present time, and that is the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). His position is a unique one as far as 1 know, and probably he is the best recommendation that the Government have for carrying on the Bill at the present time, if not the only one. As one who has given the Government and the party to which I belong fairly whole-hearted support, as one who at any rate believes that there is a great future for the present Government, and as one who, I would say with the very greatest respect, believes in certain clear and definite principles which this Bill cuts right across, I hope, in the interests of the Government as a whole, that they will accept this Motion to report progress, which they have moved themselves, and will allow the House to proceed with the business that we were elected to deal with, and that they will not endeavour in any way to force this House of Commons into an attitude and state of mind which can only ultimately be bad for the Government as a whole.
I think that the hon. Member is now getting a little beyond the lines of the discussion that I can allow on this question, and is beginning to go into the merits of the Bill.
Yes, Sir Dennis, I am afraid that I was, perhaps, getting closer to the merits of the Bill than I intended. I will only add a single sentence.
I hope that the Government will accept their own Motion, as I am sure, for what my judgment is worth, that it would be in the interests of the whole position of the Government if this Bill could just pass quietly away.
I do not want to follow quite the same line as the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who has given the Government his support by exercising his great gift of silence for quite a number of days, but I want to ask the Minister for a little further light on the Bill. When he rose, I thought he was going to give us some outline of the general effect of these masses of Amendments, but he seemed to be scared by the rising of the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), and to cut short the remarks that he would otherwise have made. He told us, it is true, of the principal changes, but he did not give a very clear outline. I think that, without going into the merits, he might have given us a clearer description of what exactly is proposed to be done by the major Amendments. It would have been a help to the Committee if he could have told us something about the changes that have taken place in the negotiations with the various interests which have caused the putting on the Paper of so many detailed Amendments, proposing that this or that authority or undertaking should he removed from this or that Clause or Schedule, and so on. When the Minister rose, I imagined that he was going to make a fairly full statement with regard to the long list of Government Amendments, and not merely to deal with only one or two points.
We are in a rather difficult position on this Motion to report Progress. It seemed to me that the Minister, when he started, was going" all out" to make a Second Reading speech, and he was rightly checked. He was giving reasons why we should accept this change in the Bill. The main change indicated, namely, the change in the nature of the authority that is to be set up, obvicusly arouses the biggest controversy in the whole Bill, and numerous Amendments are coming in from certain groups of Members to deal with it. It seems to me that, if we could have had a discussion on the question of what should be the authority, it would have been of great advantage in clearing the mind of the Committee. As it is, it seems to me that we shall get into a discussion first of all on the question of the time when the authority shall come into force, then into another discussion with regard to the name of the authority, and then into still another with regard to the number; and each of these points is bound up with the question of what kind of constitution is to be given to the board, and what kind of board is to be set up. I do not know whether you would be able, Sir Dennis, to consider that matter while the discussion on the Motion to report Progress is going on, but I think there is a great deal of force in the suggestion which has already been made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), as to the need for a general discussion on that point, because otherwise we shall have, on most of these Amendments, discussions involving the same principle again and again.
I desire to support the remarks which have just been made by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). Certainly it seems to be a very extraordinary procedure to move to report Progress in order that a few scanty remarks may be made upon two only of the Amendments. What the Committee needs, as the hon. Gentleman has just said, is a general explanation of the effect of the Government Amendments. There is a great mass of them, and some of them are rather obscure. Surely, it is treating the Committee with scant respect the Minister to sit down, as he did, after having made some very short remarks upon two points and leaving great masses of Amendments unexplained. I do not want to delay any stage of the proceedings on the Bill, but I would urge upon the Government that the Committee is entitled to a more full and adequate explanation than any that has yet been given. It might facilitate the proceedings at this stage if we could understand the general effect of the proposals which the Government have set clown on the Paper.
I think it is the feeling of the Committee that, the Minister having taken the very exceptional course of moving to report Progress, he ought to give more justification for his Motion than the few very short remarks that he made. I must admit that I myself was taken completely by surprise. I was prepared to go on with the discussion of the first Amendment on the Paper. The Minister started well, giving us very good reasons for his action. He told us that he was going to clarify the position for new Members. I do not know why he should refer to new Members in particular, because old Members are equally justified in wanting to know the effect of the large number of Amendments which have been put down. If hon. Members will turn to page 101 of the Amendment Paper, they will find a new Clause running over three or four pages, and dealing with a large number of by-laws and provisions—[HON. MEMBERS:" Read it! "]—I wish to pay due respect to the time of the Committee, but hon. Members will find there a whole page dealing with provisions regarding certain stocks of the Metropolitan Railway Company, and I understand that those provisions will materially alter the whole foundation of the Bill. That proposal may be good or bad, but I thought that, as the Government had taken this step, they would show how the Bill was to be remodelled and readjusted to meet the general criticism of the House. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) referred to the ancient history of two years ago—it is a long time to look back to—when I voted, as I plead guilty to having done, for the Second Reading of the original Bill. He said that I am the only survivor, but I think that that is an exaggeration—
I beg pardon; I said that the hon. Baronet was the only one of the speakers in favour of the Bill who had survived.
If the hon. Member had studied my speech, he would have found that it was a very qualified support that I gave —
The hon. Baronet is now reaching the point at which I called the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) to order.
I only wanted to make my point clear by asking the hon. Member to refer to my speech. As we are in Committee, I assume that the Minister can speak again, or, failing him, the Attorney-General, and I think we should now have a complete survey of the whole Bill, showing how far greater safeguards for the travelling public are provided, what effect the Amendments are likely to have on finance, how the new electoral college will operate, and how far there is agreement among the new electors as to the exercise of their functions.
I am afraid that that would involve going into the merits of the Bill to an extent which I should not be able to allow.
That makes it very difficult. It seems that, although the Government and the Minister have had over a year, it is only at the eleventh hour that they have made up their minds how to meet criticisms from various parts of the Committee. They are putting us in a very difficult position at short notice without adequate consideration, without an opportunity to consult various interests outside—local authorities, companies, and so on. The Minister will be well advised to persist in his Motion to report Progress and have a White Paper explaining the effect of the Amendments.
I heartily support the Motion that we report Progress and ask leave to sit again at a more suitable time when we really know where we are. The whole position is one of chaos. It is the first time in my experience of the House, which is now a considerable one, where a completely new Bill is being put before us without any explanation of any kind or description. There is no doubt whatever that, as my hon. Friend suggested, the intention of the Minister was to make something in the nature of a Second Reading speech within the Rules of Order as near as he could, but he found that was not possible. We know nothing whatever about the general reasons for the Bill nor why it is being produced, nor why the finances that were submitted to the House two years ago are suitable for the Committee to come to a determination upon. now. There is the further point that was really indicated by Mr. Speaker before you, Sir, took the Chair, that he himself would have to consider very seriously when these Amendments had been passed, if they were passed, whether the Bill was not a completely different Measure from that which had its Second Reading in a previous Parliament. It is very desirable, in order to save the time of the Committee, that the Government should go into the matter with Mr. Speaker and get some ruling in advance, so that we may not sit here, apparently into the small hours of the morning, for an indefinite time discussing Amendments which it is likely cannot be proceeded with because, when they are passed, they will prove not to be within the scope of the Bill and will make it a different Bill from that which received its Second Reading in another Parliament. Seldom has a Motion to report Progress been better justified than the present one, and I hope it will be carried by a large majority.
I hope the Committee will allow me to intervene in the discussion in order that we may all fully appreciate the position that has been reached. I think some of my hon. Friends have overlooked a Motion that was carried last Session and have also overlooked the history of the Bill. It is what in Parliamentary language is called a hybrid Bill. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend seems to have made an interposition which has very little to do with my statement that this was a hybrid Bill, which was my point at the moment. In consequence of the fact that the Bill is a hybrid Bill, it had necessarily to be referred to a Joint Committee of this House and the other House, although this House was then differently constituted, to be considered in all its details. It emerged from that Committee in a very different form from that in which it was originally introduced by the late Minister of Transport, Mr. Morrison. Substantial Amendments were made as the result of over 30 days' consideration in the Joint Select Committee. The Amendments having been made by the Joint Select Committee, the Bill would in the ordinary course have been considered in Committee by the same House as that in which the Motion for the Second Reading had been passed. In consequence of the decision of the House, the Bill has been carried forward and has been dealt with in exactly the same way as if it was going forward in the same Parliament in which it was introduced. May I read the Resolution that was carried:
That further proceedings on the London Passenger Transport Bill be further suspended till the next Session of Parliament:
That on any day in that Session a Motion may be made, after notice, by a Minister of the Crown, to be decided without Amendment or Debate, that proceedings on that Bill may be resumed:
If that Motion is decided in the affirmative, Mr. Speaker shall proceed to call upon the Minister in charge to present the Bill in the form in which it stood when the proceedings thereon were suspended, and the Bill shall be ordered to be printed and all Standing Orders applicable shall be deemed to have been complied with and the Bill shall be deemed to have been read a Second time and to have been reported from a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons and shall stand re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
In this Parliament. In those circumstances, it would have been quite improper for us to suggest, even if you, Sir, had been minded to allow it, to have anything in the nature of a Second Reading Debate, because the House has already decided that the Bill shall be treated as if it had had a Second Reading Debate, has been through the Joint Select Committee and has been recommitted, and in those circumstances, in view of the fact that the House so lately passed this Motion, I think we should have been fully justified in proceeding to the Committee Stage and taking the Amendments one by one. The Minister thought it would be for the convenience of the Committee to mention two or three of the important changes proposed to be made in the Bill by Amendments on the Paper. The position now is that, if we proceed to the Amendments, these matters will be brought out into the full light of day, upon which there are so many differences of opinion. I quite understand that Members in all parts of the Committee, irrespective of party, hold many divergent views upon the Bill and upon many of the proposals that are to be made to amend it. This is a case, if ever there was a case, when the old saying solvitur ambulandowill help us to get over our difficulty as to the appreciation of what is in the Bill. If we can proceed to one or two of the important Amendments, there will be ample opportunity for every critic and every friend of the Bill to disclose the main purpose of the Bill and the main proposals which will be made for its Amend- meat. On the very first page of the Order Paper, on Clause 1, there are at least three Amendments which raise question of principle in the most obvious form.
I hope the Committee, unless it is minded to prevent the discussion of the Bill—which I am sure is not the case—will allow us to withdraw the Motion, because it was made for the general convenience of the Committee and was never intended to be a peg upon which to hang a prolonged Debate which will prevent us, getting to the point at issue on which the critics want to meet the Government and the Government want to meet our critics. I do not know whether that is optimistic on the part of a junior member of the Government who is charged with duties in relation to the Bill for the purpose of assisting the Committee, but I hope we may proceed to one or two of those important Amendments, the first of which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan). Upon that Amendment, and on one that stands a little later in the name of the Minister,' there will be such a full opportunity for discussion, which will be in the nature of a Second Reading discussion having regard to the points of principle that are raised, that I hope we may now be allowed to proceed to that important discussion.
May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will bear in mind, in regard to what he said about carrying the Bill over on 27th October, that of course the House at that time had the Bill before it in its original form and had not been presented with 40 pages of Amendments, some of them thrust upon us at the last moment. That is surely a strong reason why the House should proceed to carry the Motion to report Progress and to ask leave to sit again on some more appropriate occasion. If that is not done, may I ask that some representative of the Government will carry a little further the rather short analysis of the proposal that has been given us. The Minister referred to the authorship of the Bill, to the great area. that it covers, to the fact that it aims at unified ownership, to the changes to be made in regard to the composition of the Board and to the increase in the number of the Board from five to seven, but I think he made no reference to the fact or to the nature of the important negotiations that he has been conducting with private interests between the time that has elapsed since the Bill left the Select Committee stage and now appears before us. If we might at this stage have a fuller statement in regard to those important aspects of the Bill, the Committee would be much more ready to permit the withdrawal of the Motion than I believe it to be at this moment.
I think the Committee finds itself in some little difficulty as regards being able fully to appreciate the issues that are likely to be raised by the individual Amendments. Obviously, the Minister intended, when he got up, to make a prolonged statement with regard to the general aspect of the Amendments in his name, how they interrelate one with another, and what their general effect will be. I am sure the Committee is anxious as soon as possible to get to-grips with the real issue and not to spend time in discussing such a Motion as this. If the Attorney-General's suggestion met with your approval, Sir, that on the second Amendment on the Paper we might be permitted to go beyond the exact terms of the Amendment into a wider discussion on the principles that are raised by the question of the body which shall in fact control London passenger transport in future, I feel certain that a great many Members, at any rate, will be anxious to pass from the present stage and get on to some of the Amendments. Some of us feel that, in view of the Ruling which you gave, each Amendment can only be dealt with so far as the precise content of that Amendment is concerned, and that we shall not be allowed to go outside those very narrow limits and discuss the more general propositions which must in reality arise. We feel that, if we go straight on with the Amendments now, there will never be any opportunity for discussing the main and general principle in a wide manner. If, perhaps, you could assure us that on some convenient occasion, on an early Amendment, some such opportunity will be given, the Committee will be anxious to get on as soon as possible.
I hope the hon. Gentleman has rather misquoted what I said in my Ruling. At any rate, I did not intend to say that the discussion on each Amendment must be strictly confined to the actual contents of that Amendment. What I said we must do is to confine it to what is relevant to that Amendment, because it is the common practice of the Committee in cases of this kind to discuss the implications of what one may call one Amendment which is technically contained in a number of different Amendments. As to the actual Amendments on the Order Paper, I think that the earlier ones referred to hardly raise the main principle. The main principle on the chief alterations proposed to be made in Clause I would probably arise and be discussed more conveniently on the main Amendment in the name of the Minister—in page 1, line 13—rather than on any of the other earlier Amendments on the Order Paper.
I am not clear why the Minister moved to report Progress, because he did not seem to use the opportunity afforded him. I was under the impression that we were to have a non-controversial, but nevertheless full exposition of what the Bill would be like if all the Government Amendments were passed. Instead of that, he was just getting into his stride when the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) interrupted him, and his speech came to a mysterious end. I think that we have been robbed of an opportunity of having the Bill explained to us. A tremendous number of things have happened since the Bill had a Second Reading. I know that it is a hybrid Bill, which, I understand from the biologist, means" the progeny of different species." That is what a hybrid Bill really means in its widest sense, though it has a narrow sense in this House. I do not believe when three weeks ago the House had the Bill submitted to it, and in view of the 20 pages of Government Amendments, or at least such Amendments as the Government had then decided upon—there are 17 new Amendments on the Paper of which they had not thought until yesterday—the Government at that time knew what Bill it would be desired to carry forward.
It is appalling that we should be trying to do this job under such disabilities. I have never heard of a better Motion from the Government Front Bench than the one which is now before us to report Progress. If they instruct their tellers to tell against the Motion, which, I think, is very probable, the first Amendment to be taken will be one which the Minister only discovered last night. The first Amendment in page 73 is starred, which, I understand, means that it was handed in on Monday, 28th November. It is really not quite respectful to the Committee to treat it in this way, and I sincerely express the hope that the Government will be successful by a large majority in carrying the Motion.
I would like to ask the Minister the reason why he decided upon the course which he took at the opening in moving to report Progress in order to give a full explanation? We have not had that full explanation. I should like to know, looking at the thickness of the papers on the Despatch Box, why the Minister suddenly stopped, using those voluminous notes. I should not have minded so much if he had carried out what seemed to be his original intention. It is obvious that the Government felt, that there was some necessity for making an explanation, and it was a kind of qui s'excuse s'accusethat they moved the Motion to report Progress in order to be able to give the explanation. The learned Attorney-General rightly referred to the decision taken a fortnight or three weeks ago that the Bill should be carried over to this Parliament. That decision of the House has been carried out, and the Committee stage of the Bill has actually begun. Having carried out the spirit and the letter of the Resolution which was passed in the last Parliament, rod the Committee stage having begun, -the matter is now re-opened, and it is up to the Committee to decide within the Rules of Order what further progress should be made. Some of us who support the Government have been put in a very difficult position indeed. I am certain that if the Bill could be taken as a whole, and the Whips were taken off, it would never go through. On the broad aspect of the Bill—
I do not wish to discuss the Bill. I want the Bill to be killed as a Bill, without any Amendments being taken at all.
This is not the time to do it. By Order of the House it is the consideration of the Bill in Committee which is now before us, and the only question before the Committee is whether it should proceed with its work or whether it should report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
May I appeal to the Committee? Here is a heaven-sent opportunity for us not to vote against the Government but with the Government. I beg of the Committee not to let this opportunity slip by on the Motion we are now discussing. The real feeling on the Bill is obvious. I beg of the Government to let their Motion go forward, and I beg of the Committee to support the Government on this occasion.
The Committee is now in a state of absolute confusion. What we want is a Cabinet Minister with a gift of lucid and clear explanation, and I suggest that we should send for the Prime Minister.
Sir GEORGE HAMILTON:
May I ask the learned Attorney-General whether he heard Mr. Speaker rule at the end of Questions, just before we entered upon the Committee stage, that he (Mr. Speaker) would seriously have to consider the Bill when it came before him on the Report stage if all the Amendments were carried? I think that what Mr. Speaker meant was, that if all the Government Amendments were carried, he would have to take into serious consideration whether it was not a new Bill, and not the Bill which received a Second Reading in the last Parliament. Therefore, would not he have to rule on the Report stage that all the proceedings on the Bill would have to start de novo,and is not it an absolute waste of time for the Government to go on with the Bill? It really is a waste of time—to-day and on Thursday the House of Commons is to devote time to the Bill—if the Bill is to be a new Bill, which, I believe, it will be one with all the Amendments which have been put down by the Minister. There are pages of them. If these are adopted by the Com- mittee, as they will be if the Government Whips are put on, in spite of any resistance that there may be, it will be a new Bill. Will the learned Attorney-General give his considered—
The hon. Gentleman is now anticipating what may be the action of the Committee. The Committee has not dealt with the Bill at all yet.
Sir G. HAMILTON:
If the Government Amendments are carried—that is not anticipating, I think—will it not then be a new Bill, and will not Mr. Speaker then be obliged to give very serious consideration to what he said after Questions?
I intervene only with the indulgence of the Committee as my hon. Friend his addressed question directly to me. I cannot answer it. It would be most improper to attempt to anticipate the decision of Mr. Speaker on a question which my hon. Friend says he will seriously have to consider. I cannot read into the statement of Mr. Speaker what my hon. Friend reads into it. If the Committee make such Amendments as they are minded to make, the question may or may not arise whether it is the same or a different Bill. The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Smithers) asked as to the reason for the first Amendment which appears on the Order Paper—in page 1, line 9, after the word" shall," to insert the words" as soon as may be after the passing of this Act." Hon. Members will observe that my hon. Friend the Minister put down the Amendment, which is the first Amendment on the Paper, with a view to making the statement which, I think, you, Sir Dennis, were prepared to say could more properly, and, indeed, could only be made on a Motion to report Progress, and not on the rather limited Amendment which had been put down for the sole purpose of making such a statement as the Minister intended. The first Amendment is merely a formal one to provide the opportunity which has now been provided by the Motion to report Progress. I do not know whether the Committee will so far bear with me as to allow me to say what are the three substantial Amendments. I am very anxious to avoid anything in the nature of a provocative statement which naturally might make Members anxious to reply to me. Therefore, let me tell the Committee baldly the three chief Amendments in the Bill as it emerged from the Joint Select Committee.
I think I heard my right hon. Friend say that it is not in order. Here I am being asked to make a statement on the three main Amendments, and when I proceed to do so in a few sentences, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) says that I am out of order.
May I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that we should all be most anxious to hear what he has to say. The Committee are most anxious to hear, not only what he has to say, but what the Minister of Transport has to say. The difficulty in which we find ourselves is that by the unalterable working of the rules of the House and their impartial administration these necessary processes appear to be beyond us at the present time.
On a point of Order. I am not sure whether or not the learned Attorney-General is in possession of the Committee, but, if he is, I understand that he is now going to deal with three Amendments on the Paper. I only ask, in order to protect the rights of the rest of us, whether we shall be entitled to discuss those Amendments
I think that that point has been amply covered by the Ruling which I gave some time ago to the effect that the Minister—and the same applies to any other Member of the Government making a similar statement—will only be allowed to make a non-controversial statement explanatory of the intention of the Amendments, and neither he nor any other Member can discuss them until we reach them in the ordinary course.
I very much want to discuss these matters both in a controversial and a non-controversial way. What puzzles me is, what is controversial and what is non-controversial?
You will allow me, Sir Dennis. This is a very important matter. The three Amendments with which I expect the learned Attorney-General is going to deal are very vital, and if he is going to put the point of view of the Government—[An HON. MEMBER:" No."] Whose point of view is the right hon. and learned Gentleman going to put? The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot speak for himself when he stands at that Box; he speaks for the Government. He is going to put, I understand, the point of view of the Government upon these matters and explain to the Committee the implication of the Amendments. I think that some of us would very much like to put our view in regard to those Amendments. Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman makes his explanation, I wish to join with the Noble Lord in trying to protect the rights of the rest of us to put our non-controversial point of view on the subject.
I should like to have it, made clear that I understand you are not ruling that any distinction should be drawn between the rights of a Minister and the rights of the rest of us in this regard. I have always understood that, according to the Rules of Debate, a Minister has not the right to introduce any subject if it is not open to private Members for discussion. I gather that the Ruling you have laid down as to the Minister's powers with regard to definition on the point in question will also apply to anyone of us who chooses to give a definition or an explanation of a definition of the statement made by the Minister.
The Noble Lord and the Leader of the Opposition have both hen trying to stretch my Rulings further than I intended them to go. The point of difference between the position of the Minister and that of hon. Members is clear. What I was prepared to do was to allow the Minister, or a representative of the Government, to state briefly, but in a non-controversial manner, the intention of the Government. The intention of the Government with regard to these particular Amendments is not a matter which can be stated either by the Noble Lord or by the Leader of the Opposition. That is the difference between them and the Minister. I do not propose that the Minister should be allowed in a state ment to go into any controversial matter as to whether the Amendments mean a particular thing or not.
With very great respect, the intentions of the Government are controversial. It is the intention of the Amendments that we want to discuss.
The proper time to do that is when the Amendments are moved.
This is a matter of importance to every Member of the Committee. If the Government spokesman is going to explain the intentions of the Government he must explain the Amendments. I respectfully suggest that we have a right to discuss the intentions of the Government and the explanation that the Minister gives, and to put forward our view of the Amendments and our intentions in regard to them. I suggest that if the Attorney-General makes his statement we should be allowed to discuss it in the same spirit that he puts forward the intentions of the Government.
If the Minister or the spokesman for the Government in the course of his statement enters into any question which other hon. Members of the House may wish to discuss, and it is a proper subject for discussion on the Motion, I shall, of course, allow the discussion to take place. It is my intention to confine the spokesmen for the Government in any statement that is made to remarks which do not raise any question of controversy at all.
If the Minister states the intentions of the Government, will other Members be allowed ed to state their intentions on the Amendments? Naturally, I and every Member of the House accept your Ruling that the Government should only lay down their intentions, without giving reasons, but other people have intentions with regard to this matter.
In view of what I gather is the general desire that nobody should be allowed to explain or state anything. I am not at all anxious to state, even in the three sentences which I was going to use, the three main changes proposed to be made. As the Committee does not desire me to use those three sentences, I will refrain from doing so, and perhaps the Committee will proceed to the first Amendment on the Order Paper, after this Motion has been dealt with.
It is perfectly clear from the position that we have now reached how well advised the Minister of Transport was in moving to report Progress. Everything that has taken place in this discussion has clearly shown that that is the proper course for the Committee at this moment. The Minister of Transport got up and desired to unfold to the Committee a statement vital to their coherent and competent consideration of the Bill. For some reason or other he found himself unable to do so. Then the Attorney-General rose, with all the weight of his office behind him, to assist us, in the interests of the Committee, in the interests of discussion on this Motion, and draw our attention to three Amendments and the Government's intention in regard to those Amendments. He had information which he wished to convey to us, just as the Minister in charge of the Bill had information which he wished to convey. But we have got no information, and it is perfectly clear from the Ruling of the Chair that the information which they wished to confide can only be of a limited and restricted form and could not convey any clear or intelligent impression to those who heard it. We are discussing whether we should report Progress, and I think the Government would be very well advised to follow up that happy thought. Obviously the House ought to be in possession of this important Ministerial statement before it addresses itself to the discussion of the detailed Amendments. Obviously, it cannot be in possession of that information, owing to the Rules of Order. There must be, therefore, a great failure in our Debate to-day if we are called upon to embark upon these Amendments without having received the indispensable information which the Government wish to confide and which they have already endeavoured to confide to us.
There is really no hurry about this Bill. It would be very natural, after the long delay which has intervened in its various stages and its mixed parentage, to which my hon. Friend referred, and it would be very necessary that there should be a general Debate on the principle of the Measure, its history, its position and its character, before we embark upon the long pages of Amendments, some of which are so newly printed, on the Order Paper. The Government have a hundred facilities open to them to get the Committee out of a difficulty. The difficulty is apparent; it is a patent deadlock, but the Government can easily resolve it. They can carry out what are evidently the wishes of the Minister in charge of the Bill. All they have to do is to report Progress upon this Measure, instead of using an enormous deadweight majority to carry things through whether the House likes them or not. All that they have to do is to accept the Motion which the Minister himself has made, and for which I certainly intend to vote, to proceed to other business on the Order Paper today, and to put down on the next occasion when this discussion is resumed some Motion or Resolution, which can quite easily be done, a simple Motion for the Adjournment, for instance, which would enable the whole question to be discussed quite freely. Then we could embark upon these pages, these folios of Amendments, with the whole matter put into its proper form and concept by the Minister in charge of the Bill, in accordance with what the Government consider is best calculated to enhance the efficiency and the dignity of our Debate.
So far as we are concerned on this side of the House there is so obviously a deadlock that we shall feel obliged to vote in favour of the Minister's Motion. Would it not be possible if the Committee reports Progress at once, for an immediate Motion for the Adjournment of the House to be made by the Minister? Thereupon, a general discussion could ensue upon that Motion and the voluminous notes which the Minister has before him, dealing with the general principles of the Bill, could be dilated upon. I suggest that we should adopt that course.
As the Attorney General referred to me or to others who take a certain view of his speech, I should like briefly to reply to what he said. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Committee was apparently not prepared to hear him state the intentions of the Government. That, at any rate, is not the position which I take up. I am anxious to preserve the rights of private Members. I am not suggesting, Sir Dennis, that you do not desire to preserve them, but I am not quite sure that the Attorney-General is prepared to do so.
I want to preserve the right that anything that is said by a Minister should be open for discussion by any Member of this House. The Rule applies both ways. The idea that it would be possible for the Minister to make a statement and that that statement should not be discussed is really contrary not only to the Rules of Debate but to the whole concept of discussion in this House. There are only two occasions which are exceptions to that Rule, and that is when a Minister is answering questions or when there is a personal explanation. I do not think there are any other exceptions to the Rule, and it is a most important Rule which we ought not to allow to be abrogated.
I distinctly understood my right hon. and learned Friend to say that Members of the House seemed to object to his making a statement of intentions. We do not object to that, but we object to a statement of intentions which we cannot discuss. I would support the very powerful appeal made from several quarters that we should either report Progress, or that the Government should devise some means whereby we can discuss this matter. We obviously cannot do so in the present circumstances. We are in a time of great crisis in this country, events of the most critical importance are being discussed behind the Speaker's Chair,. and, without a single Cabinet Minister on the Front Bench—we know that they cannot be here because they are engaged elsewhere—we are asked practically to pass a Socialist Measure, without the Government themselves having any clear idea of the procedure to be pursued. I would ask the Government to follow the advice given by my right hon. Friend, to carry the Motion to report Progress, take some of the other business on the Order Paper and put this Bill down for discussion on some more felicitous occasion.
I am sorry to intervene again, but I must defend myself this time from suggestions that I want to curb discussion. My Noble Friend, I think, was rather afraid that I wanted to make a statement and to prevent anyone else afterwards from discussing it.
If that is not the question, then let me say nothing more about it. It is for you, Sir Dennis, to say how the Debate shall proceed. I have throughout been anxious to do what is for the greater convenience of the Committee. I neither want to burke discussion of what I say nor refrain from making, I hope, a sufficiently clear statement of the matters embodied in these numerous Amendments. I did not want to discuss them and I did not want to defend them, I might say that I hardly wanted to explain them, but I intended to state three main changes that are proposed by this very large body of Amendments, the great bulk of which when these three particular Amendments are made will be found to be consequential and drafting Amendments. I am so entirely in the hands of the Committee that I do not know which course to take in order to meet their wishes. I know which course is for the convenience of the Committee, if they will allow me to take it; and that is to state in three sentences the three main Amendments to be made, not to explain or defend or argue them, but to state them for the general information of the Committee.
On a point of Order. May I ask whether if the Attorney-General carries out his benevolent purpose it is perfectly clear that the repercussions of these Amendments on the general character of the Bill can be discussed by the Committee?
I am not quite certain whether the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and I would agree on the same definition of the word" repercussions," but anything similar to that stated by the Attorney-General will of course be in order. What I want to guard the Committee against is a discussion, on the merits of one particular Amendment, of the type which should take place when a particular Amendment is called. If the statement is made I shall do my best—and I hope hon. Members in all quarters of the House will give me the credit for trying to do my best [HON. MEMBERS:" Hear, hear "]—to allow hon. Members to make whatever consequential statements may be properly in order as a result of the statement made from the Government Bench.
If it is desired I will state in the briefest form the three main Amendments in order that the Committee may get a general impression of the Bill as a whole, if and when these Amendments are incorporated in it. The first is the Amendment to substitute what are called the" Appointing Trustees" for the Minister as the body which is to appoint the Board. That is the first main Amendment, and it requires a vast number of drafting Amendments to put it into the Bill. The second Amendment which it is proposed to make is that the jurisdiction over facilities and fares to be provided and charged by the Board shall be in the hands of the Railway Rates Tribunal instead of being left to the Minister of Transport. That again is an Amendment which requires I think scores of drafting Amendments for the insertion of the words" Railway Rates Tribunal" for the words" Minister of Transport."
The third main change in the Bill is to incorporate the arrangements which have been made, subject to the approval of the Committee and the House, with the Metropolitan Railway Company. Up to the time when the Bill left the Joint Select Committee the Metropolitan Railway Company was not prepared to come to an agreement as to the terms upon which their undertaking should he taken over. An agreement, subject to the approval of the House, has now been made, and to incorporate that agreement in the Bill makes a substantial change in some parts of its structure. When we come to the Amendments necessary to incorporate these changes there will be ample opportunity for their further explanation, or defence or attack. I hope that I have kept my word that I would make no provocative or argumentative statement. There are no other changes in anything like the same class as these three. They are the three changes which, if accepted by the Committee, will be followed by a great deal of hard work by the Chair in the form of putting the drafting Amendments to which the Committee will readily assent because they are merely drafting. My task is done, and it is for the Committee to make such arguments as Mr. Chairman will allow on the statement I have submitted for their consideration. We shall be prepared to give a much fuller explanation when in the ordinary way he comes to the separate Amendments embodying these three changes.
In regard to the third main change, can the Attorney-General say if the arrangements made with the Metropolitan Railway Company have received the consent of the shareholders of that company?
That is certainly a question which should be postponed until we reach the Amendment.
I think the Committee should accept the Minister's Motion to report Progress, especially after the very lucid speeches of the Attorney-General. It will be remembered that in October, When the House was discussing this Bill, that the Colonial Secretary. said that we should have the fullest opportunity for discussing it. In my view it is not carrying out that pledge for the Prime Minister to announce the suspension of the 11 o'clock Rule to-day and indicate that unless we go a long way we should sit late to-night.
The Prime Minister never made any such statement. He said that it was not his intention to ask the House to sit late.
Can we have an assurance that we shall not be asked to sit late on any night?
I am dealing entirely with what the Prime Mniister said at Question Time, that it was not his intention to ask the House to sit late.
I am much obliged, because I know that many hon. Members were under the impression that the Debate would continue if we did not make considerable progress. The Motion to suspend the 11 o'clock Rule has given great offence to many hon. Members.
The hon. Member is now transgressing the Rules of Order. He is discussing a decision of the House an hour ago.
I am sorry, and I will not pursue it. There is an easy way out, and the Government by accepting the Motion to report Progress would give great satisfaction to hon. Members and provide an opportunity for hearing a clear definition of the position on a Motion that the House do now adjourn. The Minister could then give his explanation.
I must remind the hon. Member that quite unintentionally he is misleading the Committee. A matter involving legislation cannot be discussed on a Motion for the Adjournment.
I am sorry that I was in error, but I am sure that it is not beyond the ingenuity of the Chief Whip to find some means whereby the Bill can be discussed in the form of a Second Reading Debate. There is one Amendment which appears for the first time to-day of four pages long and of a most technical character. It is unreasonable to ask hon. Members to discuss such important matters when we have not had the slightest opportunity of examining them. I hope that the Committee will report Progress, and that we shall find some way of having a clear statement from the Minister of Transport or the Attorney-General on the whole Bill.
The Attorney-General in his reply to the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said that he was in the hands of the Committee, and that as representing the Government he only desired to do what the Committee wished him to do. He suggested that he should make a short statement giving an idea of the scope of the Bill and that the Committee should then proceed. But his short statement only touches the fringe of the matter, and it is evident that the Committee prefers to report Progress. [HON. MEMBERS:" Hear, hear! "] Those cheers I think indicate the view of the Committee, and as the Attorney-General says that he does not wish to dragoon or bully the Committee—
I am putting those words into the Attorney-General's mouth because it would be dragooning and bullying the Committee if the Government forced their view upon us. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman said was that he was in the hands of the Committee and was prepared to do what they desire.
I must interrupt the hon. Member. I said that I was prepared to make or not to make a statement to the Committee on the important changes as the Committee thought fit. That was the matter upon which I put myself in the hands of the Committee.
I give the Attorney-General the credit that he does not desire to dragoon or bully the Committee. As the Committee has shown unmistakably that they are not satisfied with the way the Bill has been presented the Government should accept their own Motion to report Progress and consider the way in which they can meet the views of hon. Members who desire that there should be a general discussion on the whole Bill. There is plenty of business to occupy the House until 11 o'clock tonight and I hope that the unmistakable view of the Committee will be accepted by the Government and that the Motion to report Progress will be accepted.
As one of several hundreds of new Members of this House I rise to ask that some statement on the Bill shall be made, especially after the speech of the Attorney-General referring to three important Amendments. You do not put a roof on a house before you have laid the foundations. There is in this House several hundreds of new Members who constitute a reservoir of ability. That reservoir must be tapped. I was sent here as a humble supporter of the National Government, and I want to continue to be a supporter of the National Government, but I have no information here except a statement made by the Minister of Transport, who said that the Bill was to unify the ownership of public transport. Coupled with that is a statement by the Minister of Transport in the Socialist Government with regard to the Bill. Therefore I plead with the Minister that if he cannot accept the Motion to report Progress—
I plead with him to give us a short statement letting us know what is the purpose of the Bill.
As an inexperienced and modest Member of this House I would like to say that there are two points that seem to stand out in this discussion. The first is that we have not had an adequate exposition from the Front Bench of the merits of this Bill. I would ask, is there no one on that Front Bench who is capable of giving us such an exposition? It has been asked for from all quarters, and nothing has yet occurred.
The hon. and gallant Member must remember my Ruling that a Second Reading speech on the Bill now is out of order.
Then may I ask your advice, Mr. Chairman, on one other matter? I understand that we are going to discuss this Bill in all probability all to-day and also on Thursday, and that having done so, Mr. Speaker, in going through the various Amendments, may decide that this is not the same Bill as that originally introduced.
The hon. and gallant Member cannot discuss the action Mr. Speaker may take in the House.
I think every Member of the Committee will agree that the two or three hours we have spent on the Motion before us have been extremely good fun, but I question whether really the amount of noise in the House, in cheering and applauding the baiting of the Government, reflects the feeling of Government supporters as a whole. I was one of those who rather disliked this Bill. I had hoped that other counsels would have prevailed, but when the decision is come to, with the whole weight of the Government, with Cabinet authority and consideration behind it, to bring this Measure here in the only way in which it can be brought —[HON. MEMBERS:" No "]—in the only way in which, having regard to all the circumstances, it can be brought—[HON. MEMBERS:" No! "]; when the Government have decided that the inquiries which have been made ate such as justify the Bill being brought forward, and when in fact it is brought forward, it does seem to me that it is making Parliament foolish for one Member after another to get up and indulge in opposition of the kind which normally comes from His Majesty's Opposition and keeps us up at nights, sometimes night after night. I can recall occasions in another Parliament when hon. Gentlemen who are not now here kept the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) up for hours, in the early hours of the morning, with clever Amendments and interpolations and points of Order. Surely those who always meant to oppose this Bill are satisfied that they have tested their strength. I do not believe that they number more than two or three score.
If the Government have the courage to say that this Measure is a right Measure, that a monopoly in traffic is desirable, and if they ask the House to support them so that they may get on with the business, I believe that they will secure the support of a majority of the National Members. I believe, moreover, that the general feeling in the country, unless we get on with business, will be one of shaken confidence in the Government. There will be a general feeling that the Government have mishandled the business of the House to-day. [HON. MEMBERS:" Hear hear!"] I do not consider that that is so; I think that a series of circumstances which are singularly unfortunate have helped. First of all, perhaps the Minister of Transport did not handle his Motion with the utmost possible tact and discretion. But that is no reason for the line that some hon. Members are taking. The Government must include representatives of many parties, and that is no reason for those of us who believe that the principle is right to permit a course to be taken which does definitely damage Government prestige. There happened to be discussions going on which prevented counsels being taken which might have averted this trouble. There are some sitting on the benches near me who like the embarrassment of the Government and who have joined in this fun to-day with malicious delight.
In these circumstances it seems to me that the sensible thing for the Committee to do is to reject the Motion to report Progress. It is a good joke to say that the Minister moved it. It is a good joke to say that Members can vote with the Government because the Minister moved this Motion; but everyone knows that it was moved for the convenience of the Committee, that it was not moved in order to embarrass the Committee, but for the Committee's convenience. Then, caught on the horns of a dilemma, the Government found that the explanation which was to have been made for the convenience of the Committee could not be made. The Minister of Transport has had enough already, I think, and to carry the matter to its logical conclusion and to bait him further because he is in that dilemma, does not seem to be fair play to him. The decision which some hon. Members have asked us to take, to report Progress, seems to me to be one which will stultify the Committee. I suggest that the Government should have the courage to ask the Committee to defeat the Motion, and I believe they will get the support of the majority.
I think the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has given the real reason why the Motion to report Progress should be carried. He stated that if the Government of the day deemed it desirable to establish a monopoly in traffic they should proceed with the Bill. Surely that is the one
I allowed the hon. and gallant Member for North St. Pancras (Captain Fraser) to go too far, and I was on the point of pulling him up. I cannot allow the hon. Member to continue discussing the same matter.
On a point of Order. If very controversial statements are made, is not another hon. Member allowed to deal with them?
I am sorry to think that I have contravened the rules of Debate, but I thought we had gone a little outside the original latitude allowed. The only point I wish to make is this: This Parliament contains probably a greater number of new Members than any Parliament on record. This Bill is of profound importance not to London alone. It is a matter of profoundest importance to industry throughout the whole country. It does seem reasonable to most of us that a House called to discuss a matter of this type should not proceed with the Committee stage without a real explanation from the Government Front Bench of the fundamentals of the Bill. I say no more lest I should contravene your ruling again, Mr. Chairman, and I want to have your indulgence later in the evening.
|Division No. 3.]||AYES.||[5.41 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Gluckstein, Louis Halie|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Cape. Thomas||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Apsley, Lord||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Chaimers, John Rutherford||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Baldwin-Webb. Colonel J.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Clarry, Reginald George||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Banfield, John William||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Beaumont. M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)|
|Belt. Sir Alfred L.||Copeland, Ida||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Borodale, viscount.||Cove, William G.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Bracken. Brendan||Cripps. Sir Stafford||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Briant. Frank||Crookshank, Col. C. de Wlndt (Bootle)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Daggar, George||Harvey. George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hicks. Ernest George|
|Buchanan. George||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hopkinson, Austin|
|Burnett, John George||Edwards, Charles||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)|
|Hunt, Sir Gerald B.||Maitland, Adam||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Janner, Barnett||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Selley, Harry R.|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Maxton, James||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|John, William||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd &Chisw'k)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Thorne, William James|
|Kirkwood, David||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Knebworth, Viscount||North, Captain Edward T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Parkinson, John Allen||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Lawson, John James||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lees-Jones, John||Potter, John||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Leonard, William||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Levy, Thomas||Price, Gabriel||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Williams, Herbert G. (Cruydon, S.)|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Ray, Sir William||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Lunn, William||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Renter, John R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Sir William Davison and Sir Kenyan|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Runge, Norah Cecil||Vaughan-Morgan.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Elmley, Viscount||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Leckie, J. A|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Leighton, Major B. E. p.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick|
|Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Bernays, Robert||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)|
|Blindell, James||Fade, Sir Bertram G.||Lymington, Viscount|
|Boulton, W. W.||Fermoy, Lord||Mabane, William|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Forestler-Walker, Sir Leolin||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Fox, Sir Gifford||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Fraser, Captain Ian||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Fremantle, Sir Francis||McKeag, William|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McLean, Major Alan|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gibson, Charles Granville||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Burgin, Or. Edward Leslie||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Magnay, Thomas|
|Burnett, John George||Glossop, C. W. H.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Gower, Sir Robert||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Grimston, R. V.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Cayzer. Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Hanbury, Cecil||Moore, Lt.-Cot. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.'||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Harbord, Arthur||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Clarke, Frank||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Munro, Patrick|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nunn, William|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Heneage, Lieut. Colonel Arthur P.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Cook. Thomas A.||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hills. Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Cooper, A. Dull||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Pearson, William G.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Peat, Charles u.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Hornby, Frank||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Petherick, M.|
|Curry, A. C.||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verth'pt'n, Blist'n)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Despencer-Robertton, Major J. A. F.||Iveagh, Countess of||Raikes. Henry V. A. M.|
|Dickie, John P.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Doran, Edward||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Ramsden, E.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Rankin, Robert|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Knight, Holford||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lamb. Sir Joseph Quinton||Robinson. John Roland|
|Ellis. Sir R. Geoffrey||Law, Sir Alfred||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Rosbotham, S. T.||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Soper, Richard||Warrrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Russell, Alexander Welt (Tynemouth)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmoriand)||Whiteslde, Borras Noel H.|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Salmon, Major Isidore||Storey, Samuel||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Salt, Edward W.||Strauss, Edward A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Thomas, St. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Savery, Samuel Servington||Thompson, Luke||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Scone, Lord||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Wallace, John (Dunfermilne)|
|Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A, (C'thness)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Sir George Penny and Dr. Morris-Jones.|
On a point of Order. I wish to move that you, Sir, do now leave the Chair. I propose to do 343, in view of what has just taken place and in -order to ask the Government where they now stand after the Division, the result of which has just been announced. As I gather, the Government have been defeated on a Motion proposed by the Minister. Some of us have exerted ourselves to our utmost in order to avert that stultification of the Ministry, but we have been unsuccessful because the sense of those Members of the Committee, who have not heard the discussion, has been undoubtedly hostile to the Government with the result that the Government's Motion has been defeated. On the Motion which I now submit to you, Sir, there is an opportunity for the Committee to escape from the dilemma in which it now obviously finds itself. We desire very much that the discussion on this Bill should be inaugurated by the most informing speech possible from the Minister in charge of the Measure. Upon the Question that you, Sir, do now leave the Chair, might we not, if it is the general wish of the Committee, have a statement from the Minister, not at all as a precedent, but as carrying out the general wish of the Committee on this occasion that they should be put in possession of the information which is sought before the discussion proceeds.
In the exercise of my discretion in the Chair, I decline to accept that Motion. It would amount to having a discussion in almost the same terms as the discussion which has just taken place on a similar Motion.
On a point of Order. Is it not the case that when a Government has been defeated in the past, it has been usual to afford some opportunity for a statement by the Leader of the House as to what that Government propose to do? We cannot in this case take into account the way in which the Government have been defeated. The fact remains that they proposed a Motion which has been defeated in the Lobby. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) may be wrong in urging the Motion which he suggests as an opportunity for discussing the Measure itself, and I understand that your Ruling against that Motion has been based largely on the reasons given by my right -hon. Friend for discussing the Measure itself. But would it not be in order on a Motion of that kind to have a statement by the Leader of the House as to the position and intention of the Government. I do not know who is the Leader of the House at the moment, but I presume it is the Attorney-General, and I submit that we ought "to hear from him as to what action the Government are going to take. If the process which I suggest is not adopted, we shall be in this position—that for the first time I think in the history of the House of Commons a Government will have been defeated and no statement will have been made by the Leader of the House as to what action they are going to take. Future Parliaments will not be able to judge if they use this case as a precedent—
On a point of Order. May I submit that the Minister in charge did not ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the Motion but insisted on the Motion, and the Committee therefore were justified in believing that the Government were behind the Motion?
With great respect, may I point out that the precedent concerns not the action taken by the Whips but the quarter from which the Motion emanates? There is no doubt that the Motion to report Progress was moved from the Government Front Bench by a responsible Minister.
There is a certain amount of discretion in the Chair in matters of this kind, and as I have discovered no particular willingness on the part of the Government to give the explanation which some hon. Members appear to desire, I do not think that, in the circumstances which I have already indicated in reply to the Noble Lord, there is any reason for dealing further with that question.
On a point of Order. My Friends and I are to some extent outsiders in this—shall I call it" schemozzle "—but I wish to suggest to you seriously, Sir Dennis, and I am saying this very respectfully, that you should make an effort to get us out of this difficulty.
I must keep the proceedings a little bit in order. There is no question at the moment before the Committee. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman rose to a point of Order but he has not yet put such a point.
There is a custom in the House of Commons when a deadlock of this character arises for hon. Members to make suggestions to try to get out of the difficulty.
I had called upon the Minister of Transport to move the first Amendment on the Paper—in page 1, line 9, after the word" shall" to insert" as soon as may be after the passing of this Act." The hon. Gentleman rose to do so when he was interrupted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (-Mr. Churchill) on a point of Order and the subsequent discussion has been on points of Order, but there is no point of Order before the Committee now.
May I suggest that the discussion has been on a Motion that you should leave the Chair?
No. That Motion has been disposed of. I declined to accept it.
That Motion was put forward as a suggested means of enabling the Committee to do what I think is the wish of the great majority of the Committee and I would ask, even now, would it not be worth while for the Minister again to move to report Progress and for you to accept that Motion, and to allow him, with the consent of the Committee, to make a full statement.
The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be out of order for several reasons of which I need only give one. As the Minister of Transport has moved that Motion already he cannot move it again.
I respectfully suggest that it could be moved by the Attorney-General in order to enable the Minister to make the statement which we are all nearly dying to hear.
On a point of Order. The Government moved to report Progress and did not ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw that Motion. May I ask at what particular point the change in the Government's position took place?
I beg to move in page 1, line 9, after the word" shall," to insert the words:
as soon as may be after the passing of this Act.
This Amendment is a preliminary to the appointment of the proposed Transport Board by the Appointing Trustees as dealt with in a later Amendment.
May I ask are we to have no further explanation of this Amendment beyond a couple of sentences from the Minister which many hon. Members have been unable to hear owing to the noise made by other hon. Members in leaving the Chamber? The Minister gets up and says this is the first Amendment and that it is necessary as a preliminary because some board is to be appointed, and then he sits down. The Minister should tell us a little more than he is telling us. Not all of us know every detail of the Bill, and while we admit that the Minister is well versed in the matter and understands it all, some of us want a little fuller explanation of the Measure. I think it will save a great deal of time in the future if the Minister will give us a little more explanation than he has given.
What I said was that this Amendment was an essential preliminary to the appointment of trustees. It is important when the Bill becomes law that the instruction should be given at once for the appointment of trustees to proceed as soon as possible to appoint the I card. That is absolutely necessary.
Why was that not put in the Bill? When the Bill was first drafted it was not necessary; why has it become necessary now? It either shows terrible draftsmanship in the beginning or that a new position has arisen.
No new position has arisen, except that the draftsman, looking at the matter, thought it, safer to have this Amendment in than to leave it out.
As the Minister has said that these words are only inserted as part of his new proposal, which is contained in three Amendments, the first regarding time, the second with regard to numbers, and the third with regard to the nature and the constitution of the trustees, is it not possible to discuss the whole of this proposal on this Amendment? I think this has been done before.
May I call your attention to the fact, Sir Dennis, that we have had an Amendment which is described as an essential part of the appointment of the appointing trustees? On the other hand, there is an Amendment on the Paper to put in the words:
As soon as may be after the receipt of a report,
and so on, and that sets up a different kind of constitution. Therefore, the
whole question of the nature of the constitution is raised on the Amendment now before us, because it is only being inserted with regard to the appointing trustees. If, as we maintain, the Bill should be as originally drafted, these words are otiose.
That is a question for a discussion on merits, but I still adhere to my own opinion, for what it is worth, that the discussion should take place on the later Amendment. With regard to the one which next follows, I was going to suggest to the hon. Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) that if the Minister's Amendment is carried, it will be necessary for him to make a slight modification of his Amendment in order to make it read. It would merely be to leave out the words" as soon as may be," and to add the rest of his proposed Amendment at -the end of the Minister's Amendment.
This is a long Bill, and we are told that the Amendment is necessary drafting because this board will not be appointed in the direct sense, but by a process of indirect appointment. That that process was to be adopted had apparently been known for a long time, and I want to know when they discovered that these words were necessary. I do not believe they are, but I may be wrong in my draftsmanship. My view that they are not really necessary is, however, reinforced by the fact that we were told half-an-hour ago that the Amendment was put down because it was believed that it would enable us to have a general statement on the Bill. Then they thought that that would not do, and they decided to try the other step of moving to report Progress. I do not much mind which is the reason for moving the Amendment, but it is a pity that two entirely discordant reasons should have been presented by those in charge of the Bill, and I think we should be told whether these words are vitally necessary. If they are, we shall vote for them with great pleasure, but if they were merely put down for the purpose of a Debate which was not allowed to take place, I do not think we should waste time and printing by inserting them in the Bill.
Nobody would presume to say that these words are vitally necessary, which are, I think, the words used by My hon. Friend. The words are clearly desirable in order to make it plain that the action which is intended by the Bill shall be taken immediately the Bill becomes law. They are words which are found at the beginning of similar Acts. It is true that I said a few minutes ago that the Amendment was put down and that it was hoped that on it there might be a discussion of the general points in respect of which the Bill was changed, but if the Committee will accept the words as desirable, without asking me to state that they are absolutely necessary, which I certainly cannot tell the Committee, we shall be able to proceed to the next Amendment.
I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has disposed of the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). It is clear that the Amendment was put down to enable a statement to be made by the Attorney-General, but it was not found possible to make that statement, and my right hon. and learned Friend now says it is desirable to put in the Amendment, but that it is not necessary to do so. I should have thought the real explanation was that the main object of the Amendment was to enable a statement to be made which was not made, and that now the Amendment should be put in because there is no particular harm in doing so. It fills no particular need, and the Bill would be as strong without it as with it. That, I think, is the answer to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), whose speech has never been answered by the Government. The Amendment was put down in order that we might have a discussion on the main principles of the Bill. It was not found possible to carry out that purpose. Therefore, I do not think there is any need for the Amendment, but it would be rather cruel to press the Government in the matter.
I beg to move, after the words last inserted. to insert the words:
and after the receipt of a report upon the financial structure and effect of the provisions of this Bill by the Government actuary or by the Treasury.
The purpose of the Amendment, as no doubt is clear from its wording, is that before the board is actually set up the Government shall receive and report upon the financial implications of their present proposals. We have received quite lately a White Paper, Command Paper No. 4204, containing certain statements and figures, which give very little of the required information which the House deserves to have if it is properly to consider the full import of the Bill. My first criticism of the financial proposals of the Bill is that since the Bill left the Select Committee certain important interests have been reconciled, certain undertakings have been entered into, and certain engagements have been undertaken. These financial considerations cannot but materially affect the financial prospects and basis of the Bill itself, and I have grave misgivings as to the nature of the changes which have been made, so far as the financial responsibilities of the Transport Board are concerned. My anxiety is not from the point of view of the interests which have been taken care of—properly, no doubt, from their point of view—but from the point of view of the travelling public, and it is important that the Government should have before them the fullest information, and only if they are satisfied as to the nature of that information and the result which it shows should they proceed to further consideration of the Measure or the setting up of the Transport Board, as the case may be.
Hon. Members will observe that on page 3 of the White Paper certain financial calculations are set out, but their value is hampered by the fact that the estimated net revenue is based on the average annual earnings for the three years ended the 31st December, 1930. Consequently these figures do not take into account changes which have occurred since then by reason, for example, of the falling off of receipts or of the rise in the cost of certain purchases of these undertakings. A further question arises as to whether the Government and the Committee are satisfied that fair financial compensation has been accorded to all the undertakings which have been compulsorily acquired and whether the same or corresponding financial compensation has been accorded to some of the smaller undertakings as compared with some of the greater. But that is not the main purpose of my Amendment, and I desire again to refer to the underlying importance of it from the point of view which I venture to represent.
Unless the financial basis of the Bill is sound, one of two things must occur. Either the Transport Board will not have the revenue required in order to meet the charges, or, which I believe to he far more likely, it will be compelled to resort to the unfortunate result of raising fares and curtailing the facilities; and for that reason the traveling public is bound to suffer. Not only so, but in the event of that expedient being resorted to, it must also have the result of further curtailing the receipts and further complicating the financial basis of the Bill. For these reasons, among others, it is of the first importance that the constitution of the Board should not further be proceeded with unless and until the promoters are satisfied that their financial basis is broad enough, sound enough, and accurately enough estimated to warrant the step being taken.
I realise that the Government might regard this as a dilatory Amendment.
I accept that, but I say that it might be regarded as such. In the interests of London traffic some decision will have to be come to as soon as possible as to its organisation, ownership and control. Delay is fatal, because every day's delay holds up the management of the whole system. This is a splendid opportunity for the Minister to make part of that long expected statement, for which we have been waiting 2½hours, as to the finances of the undertaking. There is a substantial difference in the Bill because of the new agreement which has been entered into with the Metropolitan Railway. The Metropolitan Railway have been very clever; they have been very cute and shrewd. They have looked after the interests of their shareholders, quite rightly, and have endeavoured to make a hard bargain. As the result of long negotiations, the Government now come forward at the eleventh hour with a complicated and tricky proposal which is embodied in a proposed new Clause. When the original Bill went through the Hybrid Committee, the Committee did not have the advantage of seeing the bargain made by the Metropolitan Railway. This is an opportune moment for the Minister to explain in detail the effect of the agreement made by the Metropolitan Railway. How far does it disturb the finances of the proposal, and how far does the Metropolitan Railway get a, better bargain than, for instance, the London County Council, the District Railway and the Underground Group?
With my limited knowledge of finance and stocks and shares I find it impossible to understand the long and intricate Clause relating to this railway, but I have no doubt that it has been drafted with great skill to protect the public, and to see that the agreement is implemented. The whole success of the undertaking depends on finance, and if it is overloaded at the beginning, if we are to pay more for the various undertakings than they are worth, and if the shareholders and various interests drive hard bargains, the success of the new board, however constituted—whether nominated by the Minister or by the proposed Committee—will be hindered from the beginning. If we do not have a statement from the Minister, I shall support the Amendment. The Minister could make clear how the finance of the undertaking is affected by the new agreement which has been come to with the Metropolitan Railway, and also how, with the declining receipts of the undertakings, the prospects as anticipated by the Government accountant are likely to be fulfilled. The statement which has been presented to the Committee was brought out as late as 25th November, so that it was prepared apparently only a week ago. I assume, therefore, that it makes full provision for the Metropolitan Railway agreement. The success of this undertaking depends on whether we can make two ends meet. If the two ends do not meet, we shall simply have higher fares. This is the right moment for the Minister to explain the effect of the finances of the Bill, and how they will be affected now that the Metropolitan Railway has come into the concern.
So far from this Amendment being a dilatory Amendment, it is vital to the success of the Bill if ever it becomes an Act of Parliament. As a member of the Joint Committee which sat for 30 days hearing evidence at inordinate length on all matters connected with the Bill as it was then before us, I say that it is a well-held opinion to-day among a large number of business persons, valuers, accountants and experts who are dealing with this matter, that the financial structure of the Bill is such that the new board will start, not insolvent—I do not say that—but financially insufficiently provided so as to make it impossible to carry out the duties that are being put upon it. When before the Joint Committee, the then Government relied on Sir William McLintock as the accountant to put the financial position before the Committee. He put in a pro forma balance sheet which showed, on the Bill as then constituted and on the figures as then known, a mere balance, after paying interest on all the stock which it was estimated would have to be met down to C. stock, of only £132,000 on a capital which, in his last figures, Sir William showed as £122,000,000. That is a mere bagatelle and insufficient for the purpose for which it is intended.
These figures are based on the accounts for the three years ending 31st December, 1930, of the component bodies—the tubes, the trams, and everything that is coming into the combine except that, I believe, the accounts of the local authorities were taken to 31st March. Since that time there has been an immense decrease in all the revenues of the component bodies. I am not in a position to give the exact figures for 1931, and it may be, if you take Lord Ashfield's combine for instance, that some saving was effected in expenses; but I do know that these companies had to reduce their dividends, and that the other bodies which form the component parts of this Bill also suffered losses. I have taken out from the" Times" of last Thursday what are estimated to be the further losses in the 46 weeks of this year. It there appears that on the Metropolitan Railway the traffic returns alone have decreased £96,100; that on the common fund companies, that is, Lord Ashfield's companies, there is a diminution of receipts of £475,300. No figures are given for the subsidiary transport companies. There has been a diminution of £54,000 in the London Suburban Traction Company. I have no figures of the decrease on the London County Council trams, but they are very considerable, too. These decreases in the last two years are absolutely sufficient to knock the bottom out of the financial statement which has been put forward. To-day, by an accident, I find that the Minister of Transport is endeavouring to bolster up the case he is making by putting in a further financial statement—
The White Paper which was circulated, and which the hon. and learned Member describes as an attempt to bolster up the case, was issued in response to a Parliamentary Question by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan), so that the hon. and learned Member will probably withdraw that suggestion.
If I used too strong words of the Minister of Transport, I certainly withdraw them, but I was assuming that the Minister was going to use this in support of his case. I do not wish to use strong language at all; I am only too anxious that the facts should be ascertained and known. I have no interest in London transport one way or the other. I am an outsider, but I am very anxious that Londoners and those who live in Greater London, in this area of 1,800 square miles with a population of 9,000,000, should know exactly what the Government are proposing to do with their traffic arrangements. The objection I have to the use of this statement is this: We are debarred by the procedure adopted from sending this Bill with its alterations to a further Select Committee, where Sir William NcLintock's statement could be subjected to investigation and cross-examination as it was in the Committee that dealt with the matter before. How on earth he can put forward figures to-day showing a slightly better result than he did two years ago and than he did when under examination before the Committee, after there have been two years of bad traffic receipts which have affected every transport undertaking, I will ask the Committee to understand if they can, because I cannot.
Why is it so important that this body when it comes into being should start off on a sound basis? It will consist of seven paid officials who will have no financial interest in the management of this matter except their own salaries? They will he put there to manage it as a commercial undertaking. They will be there to be shot at by every one who has a complaint to make, and they will have put iota their hands the easy remedy of raising fares. How can such a body work a business involving £122,000,000 of capital with a beggarly margin of £130,000? There is a further point. One of the reasons put before the Committee, the country and London for this Bill was that it is vital to the transport of London to have three new tube railways—one going north-east, another east and another south-east from Liverpool Street. It has been suggested that this Bill will enable those tubes to be built. It is said to be quite impossible, in present conditions, with tube construction costing £1,000,000 a mile, for any tube to give a reasonable return on the money spent on it, and so existing undertakings cannot obtain the capital. But it is suggested that this body of seven paid officials, with its margin of £130,000, and limited in the way of management as I have described, will be able to raise the money to build these tubes—I am told £30,000,000 will have to he raised. Is there an hon. Member who believes it to be possible?
In my view, the financial position is insecure, is unsafe and needs most careful, independent investigation before the Bill is put into operation. A short time ago, Captain Bourne, when your predecessor was in the Chair, I asked if it would be possible at any stage for this Bill to go back to a Select Committee for further examination. I got no affirmative reply, and I am doubtful whether that could he done; but if that were possible hon. Members would at least be satisfied about these matters of the very greatest importance which I have ventured to put before them. Now we are doing the best we can by seeking to require the Government themselves, by their actuary or by the Treasury, to investigate the financial structure of the Bill before it proceeds. Common prudence demands that the Amendment should be carried.
I think that every hon. Member will be grateful to the hon. Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) for raising at this early stage the question of the financial basis of this Bill. It is vital that the position should be examined critically and carefully, because supporters or opponents of the Bill will agree that very largely it must rest or fall on the result of that financial criticism. I venture to suggest at once that the Bill is financially sound. It has fallen to my lot to be fairly closely associated with London transport for eight years, and to be fairly closely associated with many of the financial problems which arise in connection with this Bill, and I will put certain considerations before the Committee upon which, I think, they will be able to come to a decision to oppose the Amendment. We arc on common ground in saying that the financial basis of the Bill was laid down with reference to the average of the three years ending 1930, and the criticism has already been advanced that since 1930 traffic returns throughout the London traffic area have fallen.
I can give my hon. and learned Friend some additional figures in support of that fact. The figures of 1931 fell short of those of 1930, and the figures for 1932 are going to fall short of those of 1931. The London County Council will probably show the traffic receipts of their tramways in this financial year to be something like 3.5 per cent. down, the Metropolitan Railway will show their receipts to be 5.9 per cent. down, the Common Fund of the Underground, Lord Ash-field's group, will show a reduction of 3.7 per cent., and the London and Suburban Traction group will show a reduction of 2.8 per cent. What difference can the Bill make to shareholders, or to the financial stability of London transport, if, as is evident, present day conditions are affecting all undertakings alike? They are all suffering a reduction of receipts. What difference can it make to the financial basis whether they are treated as units or are joined, as is proposed, in a common merger? As is well known, there are practically only two groups outside the financial scope of this Bill—Tilling's group of omnibuses and the Independent group of omnibuses. In Clause 14 (8), an arbitration tribunal is set up with power to settle the terms of acquisition of any party in respect to which terms have not yet been agreed, upon the terms already comprised in the Bill. So that, again, will not affect the financial stability of the Measure, because those who are still outside will be brought in on the same terms as those who have already agreed to the financial proposals.
I am sorry to have to repeat the story of the Metropolitan Railway, but I do it for the benefit of the hon. Baronet. The settlement with the Metropolitan Railway has not affected the financial basis of this Bill by one penny. Since the Bill left the Joint Committee, of which my hon. and learned Friend was a member, the Metropolitan Railway have come to terms with the Ministry, but the position is identical, so far as the finances of the board are concerned, with the position of the District Railway, the London Electric Railway and the Underground Railway. The financial basis is the same. The only difference is that the amalgamated railways—the great four—have decided, out of their own funds, over which they have complete control, to guarantee the Metropolitan ordinary shareholders a fixed interest return over a number of years. That is a private arrangement between the amalgamated four and the ordinary stockholders of the Metropolitan Railway—[HON. MEMBERS:" Why? "] I am only arguing whether the Bill is financially sound, and I am saying that the settlement between the Metropolitan Railway and the board is precisely the same as between the board and the London Electric Railway and the others. What the Metropolitan have done is to make an arrangement with the main lines for a guarantee over a number of years, but that does not in any way affect the finances of the Bill. I hope I have persuaded my hon. Friends that, whatever may have been the agreement between the main lines and the Metropolitan, as far as the finance of this Bill is concerned, which is the point raised by the Amendment—
Does that appear in any form in the Bill, or is it a private agreement?
If the hon. Baronet will read the White Paper which the Minister circulated three months ago he will find it all set out there. This is really the practical point: whether the ordinary stockholders of these various transport undertakings are receiving their proper share of" C" stock. The shareholders' meetings have all agreed. This will provide the risk of the board's undertakings. There is one important exception to this finance; I have already stated it, but I am afraid I must again set it out. The only exceptions to the guaranteed stockholders are all local authorities owners of tramways—the London County Council and the county boroughs, who are put in a very high state of priority in regard to the payments for their undertakings. They are coming immediately after the debenture holders, between the debenture holders and the preference shareholders, and there, again, there is the substantial return of 4½ per cent. as a practically guaranteed dividend. Of course, we are all sincerely hoping that as a consequence of this merger economies will be possible. You cannot have a great merger without economies. [HON. MEMBERS:" Oh ! "] I am reluctant to drag in personal questions, but I think it will be agreed that the Underground combine, under Lord Ashfield's management, has been one of the great outstanding transport successes of the world. That is a very great merger, and this is an extension of it. I would say to my hon. Friends of the Labour party in particular that there is no intention of making any material reduction of staff as a consequence of this great merger. They know as well as I do that with the efflux of time wastage takes place, and the result of those wastages will be that better use will be made of the existing staffs. This in two or three years will effect material savings.
I think one should say this in conclusion: It has been said by every one of the speakers that this Bill means an increase of fares. I suggest that unless the Bill becomes an Act there will he an increase of fares, or, alternatively, there will have to be subsidies from the rates. Increased fares will take place if the present conditions continue without the control or review which will be possible under this Bill. The London tramways have once again gone on the rates. They were on the rates for many years, they were off the rates for two years, and now they are back on the rates, and, as far as we can see, the subsidy from the London ratepayers will get greater and greater—at least the only alternative would be to increase fares. So I would reply to my hon. Friends who put up this bogey of increased fares that the way to keep fares down, the way to guarantee cheap- ness of London transport, is by adopting the sound finance in this Bill. It is common ground that certain great transport undertakings are not commercially successful in this sense, that they have to be helped by other forms of transport. It is common knowledge that the London omnibuses have been helping to keep the London tubes, and if the receipts go down it may well be that those services which have a low-earning capacity, and which are so necessary for the development of transport, may have to be withdrawn or considerably reduced. Therefore, in the interests of the travelling public, for which my hon. Friends have so earnestly pleaded, and in the interests of getting cheap fares and maintaining existing facilities, hope the Bill will become an Act, because its finance is sound. Its soundness has been shown by Sir William McLintock, and it was accepted by the Joint Committee, and nothing has happened since the Bill left their hands to make the position less secure than before.
I am afraid that I cannot agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Central 6.43 p.m. Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson). There is a great deal of doubt about this Measure in the minds of hon. Members, and when it comes to the finance of the undertaking doubts change to consternation. We all want to know, Is this undertaking financially top-heavy, or is it not? The success of any scheme of this kind roust depend entirely upon the purchase price of the undertakings you acquire. it would like to know whether the price at which these undertakings have been acquired is a commercial price or is in some way, shall I say, a commercial price and a price of expediency, because obviously a very great deal depends upon that. Another thing I should like to know is the basis of calculation by which this issue of transport stock, as set out in the Second Schedule, has been arrived at? On how many years' purchase are those figures based? I should like to know who negotiated this transaction and how long ago this agreement was reached. I think that the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth said 1930. Since 1930 the whole finances of this country have very considerably altered. The price of money in 1930 was very different from the price at the present time, and, obviously, what was considered a right price then no one would say is a reasonable price at the present moment. One has to remember that we have had a Conversion Loan, which makes a certain amount of difference.
The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth mentioned the question of the profits of these undertakings, and said that the receipts had gone down since 1930. I should have thought that that was the very best argument for paying less money than you would have paid in 1930. If you are going to buy on a commercial basis, you have to be quite certain that you can make them pay. If the interest on the purchase price which you pay for the commercial undertaking is larger than the profits of the undertaking itself, that must result in a loss. The moment that it results in a loss, what happens? You have either to raise fares or to take traffic off the streets. A number of hon. Members believe that the result of this Measure will be that prices will immediately be raised. If that is so, it is not the Transport Board who will be blamed but the Members of this House. I think we ought to be quite clear about that. The Transport Board are, no doubt, excellent gentlemen, but they live in a comparatively sheltered backwater compared with us. The public will be extremely indignant to find that their fares are raised. I heard the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth say that in any case if this Bill did not go through fares would be bound to rise. I understand that his argument was that the undertakings could not go on making a loss. That is the finest admission from anyone that, the moment that this Measure goes through, fares will be raised. We should like from the Minister a clear and lucid explanation as to these financial matters. We should like to know exactly the sum of money for which these varied companies have been acquired and the number of years' purchase which has been paid. We still very much press the point that it would be a great deal better to set up a finance committee to investigate the finances of this Bill before the House of Commons passes it.
A good many people in London and in the Greater London area would be much more satisfied 6.50 p.m. if this Amendment were carried. One can scarcely see any reason why the Minister should not satisfy the heartburnings of a large number of people by giving some satisfaction of their doubts as to the financial stability of the proposed undertaking. Long before the National Government came into existence, many people in the Greater London traffic area had their doubts as to the financial stability of the proposed undertaking. The statement made this afternoon by the hon. arid learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley), who was one of those who examined the Bill carefully in its Select Committee stage, makes us more apprehensive than ever that the doubts of those who were interested were based upon something. I fail to see how the argument of the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) proved that we have all the financial stability that we require. His argument went on the lines that if the undertakings were losing money by anything from 2 per cent. to 5 per cent., then as long -as they were all losing money, the financial condition was satisfactory. That is how it sounded.
I hope my hon. Friend will not misquote me. What I said was that if all these undertakings are losing money now, are they going to he any worse off by being put into a merger?
That was not the argument. That was not the line at all. The argument was that as long as they were all losing anything from 2 per cent. to 5 per cent., it was not so bad as if one were losing and three were gaining. Now the hon. Member says that so long as they are put into a merger things must be more satisfactory. We have heard of mergers—
My hon. Friend really must not misquote me again. I am quite within the recollection of the Committee, and hon. Members will be able to read what I said in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. I said quite definitely that they are all losing now and that they would not be any worse off in a merger. In a merger economies might be effected.
It is quite true that if they are all losing and they go into a merger none of them might be any worse, but the London travelling public could be considerably the worse and this great financial undertaking could be considerably the worse, by amalgamation of organisations that were not paying. I submit that there is ample case for the Amendment being accepted by the Minister of Transport. It is not in any way antagonistic to the principles of the Bill. If the examination proved the soundness of the undertaking, that would settle the doubts of a great many people who are interested in this matter. As the Government will not allow us to have a reexamination of the financial conditions by a Committee of the House, the least they can do is to give us the satisfaction of knowing from their own actuaries that the doubts that some of us have are without foundation. In view of the extremely scanty margin of profit that was estimated, namely, £130,000 on a capital of round about £100,000,0000, if we had doubts, we now have colossal doubts, knowing how the receipts of the undertakings have fallen. Is it not the duty of the Minister of Transport—at all events it would be acting in the best of faith—to give us the information that is asked for in this Amendment?
I am not opposed to this Bill, but I am seriously disturbed about its financial prospects. From the statement which has been distributed, it is obvious, on the face of it, that this concern is going to start insolvent. There is an item," Estimated Net Revenue," of £5,798,602. Even with that revenue, there is scarcely any surplus, but we know for certain that it is not the estimated net revenue and that the net revenue will be something very much smaller. We are told at the bottom of the page that the figure I have quoted is arrived at by taking the average annual earnings of companies for the three years to 31st December. 1930—three very good years. I suppose that 1929 was one of the very best years. Therefore, we know that the figure with which this statement starts is definetely wrong, and that it is not what it is described to be. It is not the estimated net revenue. This document has been given to us to satisfy our doubts, but it creates doubts. Look at the huge sums for stocks in respect of which interest has to be paid. I do not know what would happen if the interest were not paid. There is certainly no possibility of the interest being paid out of the revenue.
There is nothing in this document to tell us how much of this money would be available for capital expenditure, or how much is going to be used for taking over the various undertakings. We cannot possibly judge of the scheme until we know what money will be available for taking over the undertakings. The moment you begin to spend money, you have to borrow more, and you have to pay interest on what you borrow. The money is not there to do that, and there is nothing to give us that information. We know that the price which is being paid to the Underground Group is hopelessly too big, because it is based, I understand, on the figure which would give the shareholders the same average income which they enjoyed in the year ended 31st December, 1930. That is going to handicap this scheme from the very start. I do not see any reference in the statement to depreciation. I see a reference to provision for maintenance and renewal, but that is not the same as depreciation, We are entitled to a very full answer to these points, because this Committee cannot approve a scheme for the setting up of these undertakings without every Member realising what will be the result.
I want to urge that this is an Amendment which goes to the very root of the matter. There are many of us who do not care a bit about the political implications, but who are anxious to get a good working arrangement for London. The only speech against the Amendment was one of despair. We were told that. every undertaking is losing money to-day, but that when you put them altogether there is every hope that there will be greater efficiency and that a loss is going to be turned to a profit. Suppose you do not do that. Under this Bill the unfortunate organisation will have to work upon commercial lines. It cannot fall back on to State funds, or upon the rates. If an undertaking with such a small margin—if we are to take notice of what was said by the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson)—cannot hold out hopes of a profit, how are you going to raise money from the public? I can speak with the experience of one who had the responsibility of the London County Council tramways for six years. We had to see how best we could meet the difficulties which arose, and we had to come back on to the rates to help ourselves out. We came to a definite conclusion, that if there is a prospect that you are going to raise revenue by putting up fares, disturbing the public and causing a regular upheaval in London, you will not achieve the result. As a matter of fact, you can put up fares until you reach a point where putting up fares interferes with your increased revenue. As a matter of fact, if you put the small fares up people will walk instead of ride. We thus find ourselves in a great dilemma. Speaking as a London Member, I am one of the last to put difficulties in the way of the Government or the Minister, but in London this is a vital matter. If, as a result, fares immediately go up, and services are cut down, then the good bargain you made for the purchase of the tramways will be put out of account, and, if the travelling public are irritated from morning to night, they will turn round and hit someone, and I say that they will hit those who support this Bill.
In this White Paper, on page 3, it states that the revised figure of net revenue takes into account" The earnings (including Government grants)." I want to know what that means. I can imagine it meaning several things, and I want an assurance that there is no particular Government grant anticipated in any way whatever.
In this White Paper can find no allowance for the amount which will have eventually to be paid to Messrs. Tilling, and also to the independent omnibus owners. I am also unable to find anything which may have to be paid, under Clause 6, as compensation to the Associated Equipment Company in the event of that company not getting a contract under this Bill. It seems that neither of these two things is definitely mentioned. Will the Attorney-General tell us how these two items are dealt with in this White Paper?
May I be permitted to ask how it will affect the workers on the four large railways? I see that by this Bill the four large railways are guaranteeing the C stock. If so, will this be taken out of the funds of the rail- ways which are complaining that they they have not sufficient money and are reducing the wages of the workers.
No one could complain of the raising of this question of the financial structure on which the Bill is based. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment has for a long time taken a keen interest in London traffic, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) served on the Joint Select Committee on which, I think, he had the wearisome task of sitting for 30 or 40 days while the Bill, so far as its financial aspect was concerned, was in process of examination. I have a word to say which is directed, not so much to the substance of the speeches made, as to the form of the Amendment. I must make that comment. My hon. Friend has put down an Amendment on the Paper which provides if it is carried,
That as soon as may be after the receipt of a report upon the financial structure and effect of the provisions of this Bill by the Government Actuary or by the Treasury.
He has not, so far as the putting down of Amendments is concerned, attempted to follow his Amendment by saying what would happen if the report were not so favourable as had been anticipated. Unfortunately, in the form in which the Amendment is drawn, the Government would be left no choice. In the Bill, as the Amendment stands, the direction would be for the Act to proceed, and to be brought into operation after the report had been received. I am sure my hon. Friend did not intend that. He must have intended that if an unfavourable report were received there would be some delaying action to prevent the Bill becoming operative.
I cannot follow my hon. Friend when he says," If the Government so decide." I would have expected him to say that if an unfavourable report was received the Bill would not become operative. He says that his intention is that, if the Government so decide, the Act would not be operative. That is the real position in which we find ourselves.
The Government have given most anxious consideration to the whole of the financial structure of this Bill. I am not suggesting that the Committee is to be asked to take from the Government anything the Government chooses to put in its hands, and accept the assurances of the Minister. I only want to go by steps. My first suggestion to the Committee is that the Government have considered this matter with great care. The Amendment suggests a report. The Treasury have made reports on the result of the consideration that they have given to the Bill. They have made these to the Government from time to time, and they have followed every step in the negotiations which have finally led to this Bill. The result is that the Government are to-day in possession of precisely the same sort of reports as those which are contemplated by the Mover of the Amendment as a basis of decision as to the future operation of the Act, if it is passed.
If a Minister refers to documents, is he not bound to publish them?
If a, Minister quotes from an official document, the custom is that the document should be laid on the Table.
I have not quoted from the documents, nor are they present for me to quote from them. It was necessary for me to inform the Committee that the Government have had the advice of the Treasury at every stage of the proceedings. My hon. and learned Friend suggests that I must produce the reports. That would be very inconvenient. Law Officers' reports are constantly referred to but never produced. I am not in the position to produce these reports. I have not got them. They are reports made from time to time on particular aspects of this Bill. The next matter is that the Mover of the Amendment is asking that a report shall be made by a gentleman who may be described" as the Government actuary."
I do not suppose he means somebody different from Sir William McLintock, who is an independent adviser, and whose integrity is beyond question. He produced a balance sheet and pro forma account for the Joint Select Committee, and was in the witness box for days on end. He was subjected to examination by opponents and critics. He was even asked some questions by the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley). The Joint Select Committee performed the task of making up its mind whether the Bill was justified or not on the evidence as to finance. if it had been a Private Bill the Order would have been for the Committee to decide if the Preamble was proved. The Committee had to be satisfied that the anticipation of the financial soundness of the Bill was justified. The Committee came to the conclusion that the anticipations as to finance were justified. I know nothing about the proceedings of the Committee except those which have been published.
I think it was in 1931. I think it began sitting in April, 1931, and sat through May and June until July.
That is perfectly right. The 1931 figures were used—the figures of 1928, 1929 and 1930. I will suggest a good reason for thinking that these would be the most satisfactory years to be used if we were considering the matter entirely afresh at the present time. The Select Committee had opportunities of examining the financial position of the Bill and decided that it was justified on its merits. Now I hope I am saying nothing disrespectful when I say that a tribunal, such as the Joint Select Committee, which had an opportunity of cross-examining people and asking questions face to face, was a more satisfactory tribunal than this Committee can ever be. This Committee is entitled to the fullest information on broad lines, but we cannot go into details.
Is it not a fact that this Joint Committee passed the Bill by five votes to four?
I understand that those were the figures, but I do not think we can settle this question by counting heads. The Joint Select Committee passed the Bill, and I want the Committee to bear this in mind when they are asking for full information. There is before the Committee a White Paper which brings up to 25th November Sir William McLintock's anticipations and estimates. The Committee have an opportunity of comparing that with the White Paper produced before the Joint. Select Committee. In substance, the figures are the same, although there are additions to the capital, owing to the change of date, and difference as to anticipated earnings, which take into account the issues of capital made since the White Paper was first issued. Suppose that I was to be asked to give the House a statement as to the broad financial structure of this Bill, I could do no more than repeat what appears in the White Paper and what can be much more easily comprehended in this statement than if I read out these figures. My hon. and learned Friend asked for elucidation. He says there is nothing about depreciation. I am informed that depreciation is included in the expression to which he has referred—
for maintenance and renewal of the undertaking.
I understand full allowance has been made for depreciation in these items. Another question was asked by the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Warwick (Captain North) as to
the earnings (including Government grants).
The form of Sir William McLintock's revised figures of the net revenue takes account of
The earnings (including Government grants) to be derived from the proceeds of debenture issues made by certain of the undertakings—
In other words, the Government grants which were made under the Development (Loans. Guarantee and Grants) Act have been taken into account in this sense, that 3 per cent. of the expenditure for 15 years —for instance, in the case of the Southgate Tube extension—is a figure that has been included in the calculations made by Sir William McLintock. The criticism, as I understand it, is that after the years, 1928, 1929 and 1930 which have been taken, we have suffered a depression, we have
passed through a period when earnings have fallen, and that, if the House is to be asked to take these three years, it is not looking facts in the face. I venture to think it would be entirely wrong for this Committee to take the attitude that calculations as to the future of London transport should be based upon the earnings in what everyone agrees was the very depressed year of 1931—we have not yet finished the year 1932. It seems to me to be better to take three years which are probably much more typical and normal years than the year 1931.
It is all very well to say that Sir William McLintock, in his reserve fund account, only brings out a balance of £159,000. That is a figure which is arrived at after allowing for the" C" stock the full interest which it is capable of earning up to 6 per cent. As the Committee will appreciate, there is a rate of return on the" C" stock which bears a relation to the total earnings of the undertaking, and that provides a certain amount of elasticity. Sir William McLintock's statement assumes that the" C" stock is going to earn the whole maximum of 6 per cent., that is to say, another ½ per cent. over and above the 5½ per cent. If the Committee will look at the statement, they will find that there is an allowance for that ½ per cent., amounting to £121,000, so that you have to add this £121,000 to the £159,000 in order to ascertain the real figure available for reserve which Sir William McLintock brought out as a result of his examination of the accounts. I have been asked what were the terms upon which these undertakings have been acquired, but the Committee would not expect me to detail the terms so far as they are contained in the proposal for the exchange of transport stock for the stock and shares in the different companies; anyone can ascertain that figure for himself.
Can the Attorney-General point out any statement anywhere in the whole proceedings as to how much the London General Omnibus Company are being paid for their omnibuses
I was speaking of the Schedules for the moment, and saying—I will come to the omnibuses in a moment—that the" A" stock, for instance, mentioned in Sir William McLintock's statement, is transport stock which is exchanged for an equivalent amount of debenture interest-bearing stock which is supposed to be represented by the "A" stock mentioned in the Schedule; and similarly for the" B" stock and the preference shares. My hon. and learned Friend asked me how many years' purchase have been taken for the London General Omnibus Company. I suggest to the Committee that, having regard to the fact that considerable interests have still to be acquired for consideration or compensation, which will have to be assessed by an arbitration tribunal, it is not at all desirable that the House should be informed as to how much is being paid to the London General Omnibus Company. It surely is for the Committee to assume that, if that question had been important, and if it were a question that could properly be examined into, it would have been examined into by my hon. and learned Friend and by the Joint Select Committee when Sir William McLintock was in the witness-box.
I think it is not quite accurate to say that he could not get the information. He could not give the information, for the reason that I have mentioned. If my hon. and learned Friend will refer to the transcript of the shorthand notes of the Select Committee, I think he will find that my statement is more accurate than his on that point.
We have been informed that the purchase price of this undertaking was based upon over 19 years' purchase of the net profits during a singularly prosperous time, and we want to know, is that preposterous figure true, or anything near it?
The hon. Gentleman must not expect to catch me by asking me a question when I have already said that I do not think it is in the interest of the Bill or of the undertaking, or in the public interest, that I should inform the Committee as to the years' purchase. [HON. MEMBERS:" Why not?"] For the reason which I have given, and which was given to the Select Committee. A number of undertakings are still to be acquired, and it is certainly undesirable that information should be given as to the way by which an agreement with a particular undertaking, as, for instance, the London General Omnibus Company, was arrived at. Let me say, however, that later on, if anyone wishes to raise this question of the acquisition of a particular undertaking, it can be raised when we come to the Schedule, which is the appropriate part of the Bill dealing with the question. At the moment I am only dealing with the general financial structure of the Bill.
As to whether the Committee is justified in proceeding with the Bill on the basis of the information contained in the White Paper, which is really Sir William McLintock's report, I would call the attention of the Committee to the fact that no economies are taken into account in this pro forma statement. That is one of the advantages which it is hoped will arise from unification, but it has not been taken into account in any optimistic anticipation of profits which depend upon the exercise of economies. It is an advantage which will accrue to the board that controls this unified Undertaking. Nothing is easier than for people, especially in these times, when, naturally, we all feel more or less depressed, to be prophets of woe, and to say that this figure and that figure are not justified. I commend these figures to the House as the justification of the attitude and position which the Government are taking in the matter. It may be said that Sir William McLintock's figures are excessive and optimistic, but Sir William McLintock, as I have already pointed out, was examined, and the Committee is in a position to choose between the gloomy anticipations of any particular Member and the considered and detailed opinion which Sir William McLintock expressed and maintained after the fullest examination and cross-examination before the Joint Select Committee.
I certainly would not undertake the task, even if I were qualified to do so, of expressing my own opinion as to whether this undertaking is a sound one. The Government must be advised by the experts. My hon. Friend's own Amendment suggests that the Government should be advised by the experts, namely, the Treasury or the Government Actuary. The Government, I repeat, have been advised by experts, and they accept the opinion of the experts. The Government are not prepared, with all respect to my hon. Friend who has moved the Amendment, to go through the whole process again, for that would only result, if the report were a favourable one, in their being placed in precisely the same position as the present one, while, if the report were unfavourable—which the Government have no reason to anticipate would be the case—there is no machinery, so far as I know, which would enable the Government to give effect to that unfavourable report. The fact is that, both before the Joint Select Committee and now again upon fresh consideration of all the facts elicited by that long inquiry, Sir William McLintock is prepared to pledge his reputation and skill and experience by advancing the figures contained in the White Paper, and I ask the Committee, as reasonable business men, to take the advice which is tendered to them in the absence of any criticism of any particular figure as being unsound or inaccurate in point of calculation.
Everyone can form his own opinion, and all prophecies of what is coming must be matter of opinion. I see no reason why the Committee should adopt that pessimistic view of the future of Government transport — [HON. MEMBERS:" Oh !"] It is not Government transport, and nobody knows better than my hon. Friends that, when the Bill is amended as it will be, it will be nothing like Government transport. I was saying, when I made that slip which appears to have caused my hon. Friends such supreme delight, that there is no reason for listening to these gloomy anticipations in contrast with the expectations of Sir William McLintock. I suggest to the Committee that they should bear in mind the fact that we have here the population of London depending on a vast transport system in dozens and scores of hands. If that system is going to break down because of the difficulties of the present position, it will be largely because of the lack of unification, the lack of proper management to make the economies and dispositions which alone will transform a loss into a profit. If there is a loss, it will fall upon the travelling public in the present position. The best way to transform a loss into a profit is, as the Government think, to have this unification of the whole London transport system, to enable economies to be made, to eliminate all that is wasteful in the competition which is causing so much blocking of our public thoroughfares; and it is because the Government accept the reports which have been made to them, and believe that there is under proper administration and control a bright future for London traffic, that they commend this Bill to the House on the footing of Sir William McLintock's report.
I think the Attorney-General was a little disingenuous in endeavouring to hide himself behind Sir William McLintock. What was Sir William McLintock called upon, in essence, to do? He was given certain data, and we contest those data for a start. He was asked, upon those data, to find out what the actuarial effect would be; he was asked to do certain calculations, to take into consideration, with his experience and knowledge, all the factors that he was allowed to take into consideration, and to give an answer in figures at the end. The answer in figures was that, on a capital of greatly more than £100,000,000, as far as he could see there would be, on the basis of the profits in exceptionally favourable years, a margin of a paltry £100,000 odd, which the Attorney-General ingeniously turned into the magnificent sum of £200,000 odd, as the possible margin on the year's working of a concern with a capital of £100,000,000.
If in every single particular we had every reason to believe that Sir William McLintock was right—and we know that he is a man of great experience and supremely accurate in his calculations—he informs the Government he has taken exceptionally prosperous years, and we know that they are exceptionally prosperous from what has happened since; and, in spite of the Attorney-General's deprecation of pessimism, we know that there is not the least reason to suppose that the receipts of the London transport companies are likely to rise at any rate for three or four years, under present conditions, if ever they rise again. On the basis of the figures given to him, Sir William McLintock was told to make a calculation. He made that calculation and brought out the result that I have described, which shows conclusively that, if this had been a commercial concern, any proposal to float it on such a capital would have been turned down with contempt by the public, the underwriters, and everyone else. Is it conceivable that a company prospectus could be put before the public if the figures of the accountant showed that there was only this miserable margin, which a week's rain or a week's sunshine might completely wipe out?
May I correct the hon. Member's statement, which I did not interrupt because I thought he made it with authority, that Sir William McLintock was given certain figures and asked to make a calculation. That is entirely inaccurate. William McLintock had a perfectly free hand. No figures were given to him. He made his own examination and got every figure that he wanted from the accounts of the company.
He was given the basis of the whole calculation, the profits for certain years, and was not allowed to go into the question of what the profits were likely to be in the future. He was simply put in the position of an arithmetician or an actuary. You always give an actuary the basis on which he makes his calculations, and he makes them accordingly from his own knowledge and experience.
In taking over these undertakings with an issue of stock the purchase price is a matter of the most immense moment. We are not allowed to know, for instance, at how many years' purchase of the net profits over the period in question the London General Omnibus Company's undertakings was to be handed over in exchange for stock. We ask if it is correct that it was the basis of over 19 years' purchase of the net profit, and there is no Member of the Committee, including the right hon. Gentleman himself, who does not know that the capitalisation of the company on the basis of 19¾ years' net profits, which were then year by year decreasing, is preposterous. We all know that the basis in industrial undertakings, even those that have good prospects, is about 10 years purchase of net profits at the most.
What is the authority for the hon. Member's statement that the basis is 19 years purchase?
It has been asserted and we cannot get the Government to deny it. If the assertion is openly made and published that that was the basis, and all we can get from the Government is that it would not be wise to tell us what the real price is, we are bound to come to the conclusion that that is something near the figure.
Because it is inconvenient for the Government to state on what basis certain undertakings are to be acquired, because there are more undertakings to be acquired, that does not justify the hon. Member in asserting that a certain basis was adopted and endeavouring to elicit by that means what the basis was.
The whole argument of the Minister and of the Attorney-General is that in the case of one favoured concern they have bought it out at such a price that they dare not tell the others for fear they might demand the same terms. Is there any earthly reason why the other undertakings should not get the same number of years purchase?
I must answer for someone who cannot be here to answer for himself. The hon. Member is suggesting that Sir William McLintock made such a disgraceful bargain that we dare not state the terms.
Poor Sir William McLintock is having an awful time. Every Member of the Government tries to hide behind him and pretends that he is the responsible person and not the Government, and we know perfectly well—I have given the explanation—what the position of Sir William McLintock is and what would be the position of any Gentleman acting as he does in similar circumstances. He is given certain problems to solve for the Government. He solves those problems, and it is not fair to him to pretend that he is responsible for the Bill and for the whole policy underlying it.
There is another point that came out. It was asked," What about the depreciation of these concerns in these calculations?" We were informed that depre- ciation is merged in what we usually term repairs and renewals account. Some of these undertakings are not only losing undertakings but are obsolete. It is well recognised in transport circles that tramways are an obsolete method of conveying passengers which would long ago have disappeared from our streets as an insufferable nuisance, and the cause of more traffic jams than anything else, but for the fact that they are monopolies largely in municipal hands and municipalities, having the power to afflict the inhabitants of our cities with obsolete means of transport for an indefinite period, continue to run them when any private company would long ago have gone into the bankruptcy court. It shows the real fallacy of the whole Bill. It is a Bill to perpetuate obsolete methods of transport and nothing else. It is a Bill to prevent tramways from going into bankruptcy because they are obsolete. What allowance has been made for the fact that tramways are obsolete and are absolutely worthless from a capital point of view because they cannot earn revenue? They have got to be written off and, therefore, to say that without a depreciation account for this huge merger we can get rid of the tramways and keep our balance sheet clean and sound is a preposterous assertion. I hope anyone further replying for the Government will give us a little further explanation of this wonderful system of accounting by which you get over the difficulty of being loaded with Obsolete plant on your hands at exorbitant prices by simply calling your depreciation account repairs and renewals.
Judging by the length of the Attorney General's speech, I think he knew that he had a rather bad case. He rather justified the Bill and the rejection of the Amendment by saying the Bill was needed to avoid the streets being blocked with all kinds of vehicles. That is not the purpose of the Bill. You can get all the vehicles that you wish out of the streets, as far as I am aware, under existing powers. I believe the Transport Act of 1930 gives the Attorney General all the powers he needs to meet what to him is the declared object of the Bill. He said it would prevent traffic congestion. I do not know in what way it does so, and I do not think anyone else knows. Sir William McLintock is supposed to solve all problems. I have read his document. What use is it? What person can analyse it and come to any conclusion whether he has made a fair or reasonable estimate? There is no magic about a man because he is a chartered accountant. I am not attacking him but he is just an ordinary human being, the same as ourselves. I do not accept the statistical conclusions of any individual unless I see the process whereby he has arrived at his results. We know that his figures belong to the past. He is not a prophet, but there are figures available for at least a year, if not two years, later than those on which he based his report. The Attorney General tells us that these things are secret and confidential and it is not in the public interest to disclose them to Parliament. People go to Dartmoor for that. The issue of false prospectuses by boards of directors who do not disclose all information to people who are asked to subscribe their money is a criminal offence. I do not know whether the Attorney General is going to instruct the Public Prosecutor to prosecute himself, but that would be the logical conclusion.
I have not gone into the details of the Bill as much as many of my friends, but for the last 20 years that I have lived in London I have taken a considerable interest in the controversy with regard to London traffic. I represent part of a town that is going to get £30,000 a year out of this Bill, and there is great rejoicing amongst my constituents. One of them said to me," The finance of the Bill is rotten but it is like manna from Heaven for us," and he expressed doubt whether the supply of manna would go on indefinitely. I am not going to say that my hon. Friend's Amendment is quite the Amendment that we want. I think we want a clear statement that any plain person who is accustomed to reading balance sheets can analyse, so that we can come to our own opinion as to whether this thing can be made to pay on the assumption on which it is based, that the efficiency of the various undertakings will not diminish when the scheme comes into operation. I do not like the scheme at all, for reasons which are different from those of many other Members. I believe the undertaking is too big to be launched. My opposition is based on the fundamental principle that I do not think you can find the human beings to run these things. You cannot construct a Bill on the basis that the genius named Lord Ashfield can live for ever or will be in a position to run it for ever. If you say to Lord Ashfield," You are an autocrat; you can do what you like with London transport and we will pass you a Defence of the Realm Act which will give you any powers you like," I am certain he would make a very good show of it for the time being. But we all know the overwhelming difficulty of finding these big geniuses to run shows, and the amazing thing is that you can never put them into these undertakings. They build the undertakings round themselves, and only then do they succeed. I profoundly distrust the Bill. I know I shall get into a certain amount of trouble in my constituency, but our duty is to advice our constituents what is the right thing in the long run, and it is very conceivable that in the long run my constituents will find that they have lost by the Bill and not gained. I believe there is something wrong about the finance because, if it was all right, we should have had a White Paper of 20 or 30 pages telling us all about it. The mere paucity of the information indicates the weakness of the case.
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman did not answer my question. It is a matter of moment that, as far as I can see, in the whole paper issued by Sir William McLintock there is not a word about the provision of the funds that are going to be paid to Messrs. Tilling in the first place and to the independent undertakers and, finally, there is the very large amount of compensation, which I am told may be larger than the amount that is put into reserve, which may conceivably have to be paid to the Associated Equipment Co. under Clause 6. These are three very important items of expenditure and capitalisation which, as far as I can see, are not referred to in any way by Sir William McLintock. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the figures are better based on the three years ending 1930 than they would be on the last three years, which are worse than the first period. When the impartial tribunal comes to examine the figures of the independent undertakers and Messrs. Tilling, for the taking over of whom the Bill does not provide, will it be understood that they also will be placed on exactly the same basis of the three years ending 1930 as has been done in the case of the London General Omnibus Company and the other undertakings of the Underground, and the Metropolitan Railway and the other concerns connected with it? Those three items are of very great. moment, and the question should be answered. Both the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) have referred to economies. Is there nothing in the White Paper as to the increased expenditure which will be necessary on the part of the undertaking? I defy the right hon. and learned Gentleman or the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth to point out a single amalgamated concern which after amalgamation produced any economy whatever or which did not incur a greater expenditure. The only way in which combines can earn a greater profit is by putting up their fares and the price of their goods. That is what they do in almost every case. There is no economy.
The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth has referred to economies on the Underground. The Underground is not an economically worked body. It is nothing like as economically worked as the undertaking of Messrs. Tilling. I have seen the figures in regard to this matter. The Underground is a very efficiently organised body, but it is not economically worked. Therefore, instead of economies arising from the working of this new group, the result will be a very greatly increased expenditure over that of to-day. What provision is there in this proposal for the superman and the salary which is to be paid to him? Has any consideration been given by the Government as to the man to amalgamate all the groups of traffic?
I do not think that the question as to the person can possibly arise on this Amendment.
I was not attempting to pursue the point except to say that the expense of that man obviously cannot exist in the expenditure at present. Is his salary allowed for in the items which 'pave been put forward by Sir William McLintock? These matters are of very great moment, and I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he can inform me particularly as to where the finance of the scheme is provided.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has told us that he is not prepared to take the House into his confidence regarding the purchase price paid for these undertakings. Can he give us one crumb of comfort? Will he tell us whether in his opinion these undertakings have been acquired on a commercial basis or not?
Sir G. HAMILTON:
Many of us support the Amendment because we are really anxious, after studying the figures available to us, as to whether, if the Bill goes through, the finance of the Board will not break down almost immediately. As I understand it, the report of Sir William McLintock, which the learned Attorney-General quotes so ably and so glibly, is only dated November of this year, and yet it is based upon figures as long ago as the end of the year 1930. We have all had an opportunity of studying the balance-sheets of many of these companies since then, and we know that the receipts and profits of the companies have gone down to an enormous degree. I tried to ascertain the figure, and the best I could get is a figure of something like £750,000. if the profits of the company have already gone down by £750,000, why is that fact not placed before the House in the report of Sir William McLintock. He must have known it as well as anybody. I see that the" A" and" B" Stocks have to be amortised. There is no provision made in the White Paper for amortisation. I shall probably be told that this matter does not come up for a year or two. It is true, but it has eventually to be dealt with.
Does my hon. Friend overlook the balance of" C" Stock and the Reserve Fund?
Sir G. HAMILTON:
That is not the amortisation of the" A" and" B" Stocks. Surely, the learned Attorney-General cannot maintain that. I am talking about amortisation of" A" and" B" Stocks which does not come about for many years, but which will be a serious charge upon the undertaking when it comes to be paid. That will be a very considerable item, and it appears to have been entirely overlooked. There is another point. It is not a very big one, but it is a very important point. All these omnibus companies run their omnibuses on petrol, and there has been a considerable tax on petrol since 1930. Has allowance been made for that? What many of us living just outside London or in London and representing constituencies in those outside areas are afraid of, unless the Amendment is accepted or some similar or more suitable form of Amendment is promised by the Government, is that when this huge, overwhelming combine of transport gets going the only effect of it will be to put up the fares and to reduce the accommodation available for our constituents to travel. If that is to be the effect, the Measure is one which we London representatives must oppose tooth and nail, and, much as we like to support the Government, we cannot support them in passing a Measure in regard to which the actual financial figures laid before us are so unsatisfactory. Amortisation, reduced profits in the last year or two, and the petrol tax are three examples which I ask the learned Attorney-General to take into consideration to see whether, if he cannot accept the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend, he will not, at any rate, promise the Committee that before the Bill becomes law there shall be a further financial examination of all the figures and a further White Paper laid before the House on the authority of the Treasury or some other Government Department. I do not think that we can accept the figures of Sir William McLintock which seem to leave out entirely the consideration of many matters which should have been taken into consideration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) concluded his observations by asking that the Committee should insist upon a White Paper being issued on the authority of the Treasury, or some expression to that effect. Let it be clearly understood that as far as the Treasury are concerned, as I have already stated, they have been fully informed of every stage of the negotiations. I am not merely sheltering behind the statement of Sir William McLintock. I want to make it clear that it is a mistake to suppose that the Treasury are not in accord with the statements laid before the House. I am not dividing myself into two parts, one part representing Sir William McLintock and the other part the Treasury. I am representing here the views of the Treasury. The statement of Sir William McLintock is made by a gentleman employed by the Government to produce a report and let it be understood quite clearly the Treasury are not in the background as the destructive critics of this scheme. Do not let the Committee be under any other impression. The Treasury have been in touch with the scheme from start to finish and they do not desire in any way to be critics of the figures of Sir William McLintock on the matters which are included in the Bill.
My hon. Friend said that there had been no consideration by Sir William McLintock of petrol, and the amortisation of the" A" and" B" stocks and I think he mentioned reduced profits owing to the fact that 1931 was a very bad year. It is true that the first item:
Estimated net revenue after charging working and establishment expenses,s
is a comprehensive statement and a very brief one. Sir William MeLintock has not taken, as the hon. Member below the Gangway who has now left the House said, figures from somebody else. He has formed his own opinion as to the price. I can but repeat that he was open to cross-examination before the proper tribunal appointed by this House. Do not let it be supposed that the Select Committee was a hole-and-corner tribunal set up by the Government. It was a case of this House setting up a proper tribunal in the form of a Joint Select Committee for the examination of the Bill. I am not sheltering myself in the least degree behind Sir William McLintock. If I were qualified, I should be prepared to take the responsibility which I ought to take in this matter. My authority is not, apparently, the authority of people who have exposed themselves to the most damaging criticism and cross-examination that could be thought of or suggested by counsel engaged to examine the structure of the Bill upstairs. That examination has taken place, and it is because it lasted for 30 days, with the expenditure of some £40,000 or £50,000, that the Committee may feel fairly sure that the examination was a thorough one.
Sir G. HAMILTON:
How could the White Paper, which is dated November of this year, possibly have been before the Committee upstairs?
Not a White Paper but rather an account in precisely the same form was placed before the Committee by Sir William McLintock when he gave evidence in chief, and, although the details are altered, in substance the amount is the same, except that adjustments have been made to deal with capital issued, for instance, since the Committee sat in 1931. I will deal with one or two points upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr.Remer) asked me a question. He wanted to know the terms of Messrs. Tilling. The terms of Messrs. Tilling have to he settled by the Arbitration Tribunal under the Act.
That was not my question. I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. My question was:" Where is that provided for in the financial statement issued by Sir William McLintock?" If they have not been provided for—and I do not think that they have—the statement is worthless.
My hon. Friend will, I am sure, accept my statement, which I can make with authority, that a proper sum with an ample margin has been included in those calculations for compensating Messrs. Tilling. Messrs. Tilling have expressed a desire to receive transport stock and not cash, the amount of the stock to be settled by the Arbitration Tribunal. I was going to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that Messrs. Tilling, one of the best managed transport undertakings in London and in the country, are, at any rate, a little more confident as to the interest earning character of the transport stock than some hon. Members in this Committee, because they prefer, not sovereigns or pounds, but transport stock as the price of their undertaking. It looks as if those very astute and experienced managers of transport in London are fairly confident as to the value of the stock which will be issued by this undertaking which my hon. Friends all round me have said is not going to earn money.
Is it not a fact that Messrs. Tilling are not satisfied with the provision of the Bill under which they may or may not get a sufficient quantity of that stock?
Messrs. Tilling know that the amount which they will receive by way of compensation will be assessed by the Arbitration Tribunal appointed under the Act.
That is exactly the purpose for which they want hon. Members to put down an Amendment. They have asked that they shall be given a certain basis of assessment of their revenue, and not that which is contained in the Bill.
The point about Messrs. Tilling can be dealt with when we come to the proper place for it. I only alluded to it because the hon. Member for Macclesfield had asked me a question about it. I think I am right in saying that Messrs. Tilling have desired to receive stock and not cash and that they hope to get an adequate amount of compensation from the arbitration tribunal. That is all that can be said at the present time.
I have an Amendment on the Order Paper with respect to Messrs. Tilling.
The hon. Member will indicate Messrs. Tilling's point of view and we shall be able to deal with it then. The hon. Member for Macclesfield also asked about the Associated Equipment Company. The Transport Board is not taking over that undertaking. I hope that that statement disposes of the point.
Clause 6 (3) provides for compensation to the Associated Equipment Company, which I am informed may be a very large amount, £100,000 or something like that.
Certain compensation is provided for, but that has been taken into account in the calculations contained in the Bill. I should like to say something about a statement ma-de by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). He rather tried to obtain from me a disclosure of a figure which I said I was not prepared to give regarding the London General Omnibus Company. He said that he had been informed that 19½ years purchase must be something like the term given to the London General Omnibus Company, and asked whether that. figure was true or anything like it. In the absence of a denial of such a statement the hon. Member might try to pin us down to a statement of that sort. I think I can, however, dispose of the statement by saying that the the terms agreed in respect of the London General Omnibus Company were not agreed separately. The tubes and the London General Omnibus Company were dealt with as one general concern. Therefore it is impossible to say how many years purchase have been given for the tubes or for the London General Omnibus Company. That is perhaps a more satisfactory answer than I gave to the Committee earlier, when I said that I did not think it wise to disclose the exact terms.
As we have had this examination of the financial position and as it is conceded, I think by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) that this Amendment is not one that we could accept, I hope we shall now dispose of it and come to other matters which raise questions upon which it will be possible to have further examination of the particular financial aspect mentioned in the Clause under consideration.
The Committee ought to know that the Joint Committee never considered in detail the valuations of Lord Ashfield's combine. The matter came before the Joint Committee in this form; we had the valuations of the whole of the assets lumped together by Sir William McLintock, and they were opposed by Lord Ashfield's combine, by counsel. Suddenly, an agreed arrangement was made between Mr. Herbert Morrison and Lord Ashfield's companies, and it was put before us as an agreed measure and one which we might accept as being fair. We tried, at any rate, speaking particularly for myself, I tried all the way through to ascertain what were the profits made by the London General Omnibus Company, but —the Attorney-General is absolutely correct in his statement—we were never allowed to know that, because the whole of the profits of the tubes, the trams and the omnibuses in Lord Ashfield's combine were all lumped together and a fixed sum settled between Mr. Morrison and Lord Ashfield for the lot. Then the total amount was apportioned in stock between the companies and put into the Schedule. We were told that it was impossible to separate the receipts in a common fund between the trams, the omnibuses and the tubes. The joint Committee never knew how much was being paid for the omnibuses or the tubes but, speaking generally, I think it is correct to say from recollection that Lord Ashfield's combine did receive 19½ years' purchase, or something just under 20 years' purchase. The amount to be paid for the Metropolitan Railway has never been gone into before any Committee. It appeared in the valuation of Sir William McLintock, but the terms were never gone into by the Joint Committee. One of the grievances put forward by counsel on behalf of the smaller omnibus people was that they ought to have the same treatment as the other omnibus companies.
Yes. I had not finished. I think I can give the hon. and gallant Member the most explicit assurance that the agreements arrived at were on a strictly commercial basis. There was no consideration given to anybody so as to give them any favourable terms. The one desire was to secure the undertakings for the lowest possible consideration that could be agreed upon between the parties.
Can the Attorney-General give the assurance that was asked for by the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) that the amortisation of" A" and" B" stocks and petrol charges will not result in increased charges to the public?
There can be no amortisation until 10 years have elapsed. Not -until then does the amortisation of the" A" and" B" stocks begin. So far as petrol is concerned, I cannot give any assurance as to the price at which petrol will be sold in the future but no one can prophesy, nor can this House, nor can Sir William McLintock. He has taken into account all the existing facts and that is all that the Government actuaries would do.
Any increase in price will be pressed on to the travelling public?
As any decreases from time to time will similarly be.
Question," That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the words" public authority," and to insert instead thereof the word" Board."
This is one of two Amendments which would alter the name and to some extent the constitution of the Board. The alteration in name is something more than a mere change of title. The words "public authority" in addition to acquiring by their use an element of power and compulsion not inherent in the word "board" or any description of that kind, are something in the nature of a misnomer. By "public authority" most Members of this House will have in mind something like a local authority with which they are familiar, or some organisation over which they as electors may have some measure of control. The words "public authority" suggest to them a municipal council, a county borough, or a county council. They will connect the name with one of the oldest and most respected instruments of Government that this country has known or that has ever been known in the municipal history of Great Britain. They will also associate with it the idea that it is elected and, consequently, under some measure of control by themselves as electors. The public authority which the Bill seeks to establish is not under public control. It may have a great deal of authority but it is not under control by the public. It is not to be elected or subject to any of the customary limitations associated with local authorities. It is devised for one specific purpose. It is not like the local authority with which hon. Members are familiar, which may own and operate a water supply undertaking, a gas works, an electric undertaking, trams or many of those public utilities which in the past hundred years we have come to associate with the activities of elected bodies of that kind. It has no association with them at all. The important, feature is that it is not elected, and once it is established and once it starts upon its career it becomes an instrument over which they have practically no control.
One of the reasons why this Bill is commended is that it is held to represent an extension of the duties now discharged by a number of local authorities with whose activities in that direction we have become familiar. It is nothing of the kind. It is also pointed out that it follows the precedent, of the Port of London Authority, the Metropolitan Water Board and the Electricity Commissioners. The public authority that is proposed in the Bill has no close resemblance to any of those authorities. It represents, as many hon. Members will be aware, the outcome of measures of duress, exercised against the owners of certain undertakings. We are told now that they have entered voluntarily into these undertakings, or that a measure of agreement has been reached, but compulsion has been exerted or it was exerted in the first instance. I suppose the Government, who now support the Measure, would not deny that compulsion is, in their judgment, necessary. Those who do not reach a voluntary agreement have to be settled by an arbitration board.
I submit that the instrument which is sought to be established, and that the authority which is sought to be created is without precedent. It bears no resemblance to a local authority operating a public utility for the reasons that I have stated, and it is not a precedent compared with those that are often associated with it and often brought out in the evidence before the Select Committee. The Amendment which I now move and the sequel to it would give the Government an opportunity of reconsidering one of the objections which have always been urged against this Measure —its compulsory character and public ownership, nationalisation as it is termed, of transport in this great area.
We have just had an interesting discussion on a financial basis of the Bill. Let us consider it from the transport point of view. Is this great uncontrolled monopoly likely to serve the public well? Is it likely to pay? There are grave misgivings as to whether it will not mean further burdens on the public. In its monopoly character can it resist the ten- deney of all monopolies to stagnation? Shall we get a languorous bureaucratic lassitude? Shall we get a reluctance to change, none of that prompting to improvement which is the outcome of competition I In fact, is it safe for us to proceed with this Measure on the lines upon which the Government have determined to proceed'? It will be ungenerous to the Minister of Transport not to pay a tribute to the extent to which he has endeavoured to meet criticisms and objections. If he can go further and adopt this Amendment he will alter the constitution of the Transport Board and make it optional on the undertakings to become members or not; he will secure the co-ordination of transport which he desires in the area, and he will do it without exercising that compulsion which is at present inherent in the proposal and without incurring the disadvantage of making this a nationalising operation and at the same time cure some of the dangers inherent in monopoly.
I need not go back to the objections urged against the Measure a year and a-half ago, but I would remind the Minister that the former proposals did provide for voluntary co-operation in a common management and a common fund, and that they involved no compulsion and no confiscation, certainly not without the option of cash. The danger of these proposals is that the public are likely to suffer. The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) has assured us that unless something of this kind is done the undertakings which are now suffering a certain measure of distress will suffer worse, and that fares will have to go up. If this Bill is passed, what assurances have we that the improvements which have been held out by the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth and others as likely to result from its passage will in fact be obtained? The Amendment and the subsequent Amendment would relieve the Minister from the necessity of pressing upon the Committee a system of nationalisation under compulsion. He would be able to secure at least a part of the proposals of the Bill which was before the House three years ago, which passed through all its stages, and which was only disregarded when there came a change of Government.
I must resist this Amendment very strongly. This is a public authority, and we want to emphasise its status as a public authority. Moreover, as a public authority it would secure the benefit of the Public Authorities Protection Act—a point of great importance. I cannot see why on an Amendment which is designed to change the name. from a public authority to a board we should be led into an argument as to whether a change of name leads to nationalisation or involves any measure of compulsion, or raises the question as to whether stagnation results, or whether it will pay, or whether the public will suffer. The Amendment in my opinion is meaningless, and in the circumstances the Government must resist it.
I must dissent from the statement of the Minister that the Amendment is meaningless. It is an extremely clever Amendment and if it were accepted would defeat the whole object of the Bill. This Amendment and the consequential Amendment also in the name of the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) would give a board of nominees to the various constituent transport undertakings, and the only organisation which would be compulsorily included in the scheme is the London Underground group. The rest of the transport organisations would only come in by agreement. The result would be that you would have a board constituted compulsorily of the Underground group and others only according as they approved. If the subsequent Amendment is considered it will be found that it will be impossible for the board so constituted to establish any new road services in competition with those who remain outside and, therefore, the people outside the transport group will be protected although under no form of public control whatever. If the Amendment were accepted it would defeat the whole object of the Bill and we should have no co-ordination of London traffic at all.
On a point of Order. Are we discussing the Amendment which has been moved and the subsequent Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan)? The Minister of Transport treated it as an isolated Amendment, hut the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) is discussing the two Amendments together.
The hon. Member who moved the Amendment supported it by a reference to a later Amendment in his name, and in the circumstances I cannot decline to allow some arguments to be used to show the bearing of the two Amendments on each other.
In that case, may I observe that I do regard the Amendment and the subsequent Amendment taken in conjunction with it of very great importance, and I entirely agree with the observations of the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson).
As I said before, this Amendment and Amendments which follow in the name of the same hon. and gallant Gentleman, would entirely defeat the object of the Bill. They would put an end to the co-ordination of London traffic. The whole object of the Bill is to provide for the complete consolidation of London transport. I ask the Committee to consider the logical result of the carrying of this and related Amendments. There would be a Transport Board set up. The Underground would compulsorily be a member and all the others would be sitting side by side with the Underground, and taking part in the control and management of the Board's undertakings while they themselves would be quite free and independent to pursue what course they liked outside. That would leave the hoard in the perilous position of sitting and deciding affairs while some of the members would be quite independent of the board.
The result which it was intended to reach by this and subsequent Amendments approximates closely to the recommendations of what is known as the Blue Report. You would have on the board one very large undertaking, compulsorily, an undertaking which entered into an agreement with the Minister of Transport before the Bill went to a Select Committee. They have been largely regarded as the promoters of the Bill as we now know it. The other undertakings that had not been compulsorily acquired would remain in the ownership of the undertakings but would be co-ordinated by joint membership of the board very much on the lines of the recommendation of the Blue Report. That is the purpose—to keep out the compulsion but to retain the common management which was so strongly recommended in the Blue Report.
The Blue Report never contemplated the condition of things which is envisaged in these Amendments; it never contemplated having the Underground and some members composing the board, and the rest of the transport undertakings in London sitting on the board and deliberating with them in the Board's affairs, but with regard to their own individual concerns feeling no responsibility to the management of the Board. That would he an absurd position.
The Minister referred to the Public Authorities (Protection) Act, and I understood him to say it was intended that that Act should apply to this authority. If that is the real intention I think it is very unjust. The point of that Act is that an action can only be brought against the authorities within six months. There would surely be a great many claims for accidents and personal injuries and the like, and it would be very unjust to people who had been injured and who might be ill for weeks or months if they were deprived of their right of action because the new authority had the benefit of that Act. I would like that point to be considered. Words might be added somewhere to provide that that Act shall not be applicable to this body.
One point I would stress, and that is the effect of the term" Public Authority" being applied to this Board. I think the result will inevitably be that every servant of any transport undertaking will consider himself a public servant, and expect the conditions of life, of service, and of security that attach to a civil servant. Up to the present time London transport has been well served because those who have served the public have served under competitive conditions. Their promotion has depended on results; their payment has depended on the prosperity of their undertakings.
But if the flexibility of the past is to be merged in the immobility of the civil service I think that any financial argument based upon the past will be watered out entirely by this term" public authority." We know that there is already very great difficulty in obtaining evidence in cases of accidents, before coroners and through the police authorities, and if every investigation has to be conducted, as it were, against the heavy weight of an official public authority, and not simply a Board, I think justice itself will be hindered.
I am rather surprised that no one from the Front Opposition Bench is cutting in to defend what is a Labour party Bill. After all, this is the Labour party's Bill, with all its faults and virtues, and I should have thought that someone representing that party would have stood by the Minister and helped him to-day in his difficult task. I think the Minister was right in resisting this Amendment. I want to get on to the more practical proposals which make the Bill more workable and provide ampler securities for the travelling public.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, to leave out the word" four."
This Amendment is moved to increase the size of the Board from four members, plus a Chairman, to six members, plus a Chairman.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, after the word" and," to insert the word" six."
In discussing the question of this type of small Board I wish to discuss it quite frankly and in the most friendly way with those who are advocating a larger Board. To begin with, I am certainly of opinion that the original number of four is too small for the ordinary practical work of an undertaking of this size and importance. It does not allow a sufficient margin for sickness of members of the Board, or periods of great pressure of work. Further, by increasing the number to six we are given an opportunity of broadening the range of experience which we can bring to bear on the policy of the undertaking. Everyone wishes that the Board which is to be responsible for the operation of this great undertaking should be a thoroughly business-like body-and that the persons who compose it should be selected for no other reason than that they possess some special qualifications which will enrich the skill and experience of the Board in directing the conduct of the undertaking and taking a broad view of the policy which ought to be pursued in the public interest.
I think there can be little question on the part of those hon. Members who have had experience in the operation of concerns of some magnitude, that the first consideration in a director is that he should possess in himself the personal qualifications and the wisdom necessary to assist properly in the conduct of the concern. We propose to make sure that the Board shall possess these advantages by directing the trustees to appoint a Board which will combine experience in the operation of London traffic with a knowledge of the finance of great undertakings and, in view of the large number of local authorities upon whose territory the London transport area touches, we shall include members with experience of local government work in relation to transport. The importance of that point has been recognised by the undertaking given that on the Board there shall be persons experienced in local government work in the London area. All these attributes to which I have referred must be borne in mind in considering the composition of a Board capable of managing this great undertaking with efficiency. I admit that there are always two ways of carrying out any specific piece of work or controlling any particular undertaking but I firmly believe that anyone who has had experience of controlling large undertakings will confirm me when I say that a small Board selected solely on grounds of the personal ability and experience of its members, is a better medium for controlling a great undertaking than a very large Board the members of which represent specific interests.
I notice on the Order Paper certain Amendments proposing a larger number than six. There is no suggestion in those Amendments that the larger Board ought to control the undertaking. It is suggested rather that it should control policy and that the policy should then be administered by an executive committee. I suggest that it is not possible to divorce what is loosely known as policy from the day-to-day management of an under- taking like this. At any rate it is my experience that where there is a large board, it often happens that the actual control of policy falls into the hands of a very few members of that large board who really understand the business. I believe it essential that this Board should be kept down to small dimensions. It is to be a London Passenger Transport Board but everybody will agree that we do not want any passengers on it. The Americans have a phrase which has always struck me as attractive. They call a certain type of large board a" Yes, Sir" board. It means a board composed of a large number of members who assemble more or less irregularly and at the right moment give their assent to various proposals. We do not want in connection with this undertaking which is so important and so great to risk any possibility of having elected upon it to represent specific interests persons whose ability might not be equal to the task which will fall upon them.
There is another consideration to which I imagine those who are advocating a larger Board have not given full weight and that is the advisory committee which is provided for in the Bill. The Board would have periodical meetings and discussions with this body which would in an unrivalled way represent the transport point of view and the requirements of the local authorities. The Board would have the additional advantage that, when it was in a dilemma or when it felt the need of further advice, or of information regarding the broader aspects of London transport and the work which it is called upon to perform, it could seek advice of the advisory committee. I think the Board which we propose is a good sound working proposition. I believe that we can find the right people to do this great work. I believe that by means of the machinery which we are providing we; hall have, not only efficiency in management, but also, by means of the advisory committee, a proper regard for the public interest.
I have on the Paper an Amendment which proposes to insert" thirteen" as the number of members, but, perhaps by addressing myself to the Minister's Amendment I may avoid the necessity of speaking on my own Amend- ment. I am sorry that the Minister should have found it necessary to enter upon an argument as to the respective advantages and disadvantages of large. boards and small boards and the question of divorcing policy from management. It almost tempts me to adhere to my original proposal which I was going to give up, because of the alteration which the Minister has made in the constitution of the board. I still believe that the larger board of 13, as a policy board, with an executive beneath it, would be the best method of dealing with London transport. I do not think the Minister is quite right in arguing for the small body which he proposes, because I am sure that if he examined the directorates of all the great corporations, whether private or public, he would find that there was a divorce between the policy body and the executive body. However, I am not going to be led astray because the Minister has tried to lead me astray.
Although one still believes that there is ample room, on a great authority such as this is going to be, with its immense responsibility, for a board of 13, our Amendment was put down very largely because we felt that local government interests should be considered in appointments of this kind. In the original proposal of a board of four, with a chairman, there was no provision whatever for anybody representing local government interests, and we believed that problems like housing, town planning, public health, and so on, were all intimately wrapped up with problems attendant on traffic facilities. That was why we felt all the time that unless there was some local government representation on this body, it would not function as it should do in that respect. Originally we asked for a board of 13, with about one-third representative of local government authorities. I am not a worshipper of any particular number. T