Members (Travelling Facilities)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th November 1945.

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11.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

I beg to move, That in the opinion of this House the facilities now available to a Member of this House travelling on parliamentary duties between London and his constituency should be extended so as to provide facilities for free travel on such duties by any public railway, sea or air service, between—

  1. (a) London and his constituency;
  2. (b) London and such one other place outside his constituency as may have been notified by him to the Fees Office as being his ordinary residence; and
  3. (c) his constituency and such one other place as aforesaid."
I hope we may get this second Motion without much discussion, because I think it is generally recognised as being reasonable. The Select Committee will have a wide range of freedom in discussing matters including the question of travel, but it seems to the Government that we should take this immediate step which I am asking the House to approve in this Motion because I think it is non-controversial and does redress many grave inequities between different sections of the House. Some Members of the House live in London. Other Members live in their constituencies; these enjoy facilities of free travel between London and their homes, but those Members—and there are many of them—who live neither in London, nor in their constituencies, have to incur considerable expenses which do not fall on the other sections. The purpose of this Motion is to equalise the matter as between the two sections and to enable facilities for free travel to apply to each of the legs of the triangle—home, constituency, London. I do not think I need elaborate the Motion, beyond saying that an extension was considered as long ago as 1921 and defeated by a very narrow margin when commended to the House by the late Sir Austin Chamberlain, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He considered that some extension was reasonable, but by a narrow vote was not able to carry his proposition.

The Government think that the time has come to apply free travel on a fair and intelligent basis and also to add facility for free travel by air when air facilities are available, including free travel from the airport nearest either to the Members constituency, or his home; free travel by rail, from the airport to the point where normally, the hon. Member would alight when proceeding other than by air. Since the early days, air travel has considerably developed and on the ground of saving time it is of such importance to all of us in these crowded days, particularly to those who live in the North of Scotland or in Northern Ireland. I think it will assist Members if they are able to get in an hour or two by air a distance which by rail would involve a night in the train. I hope it will be accepted as reasonable, and I hope the House will be prepared to accept this Resolution.

11.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

Here again I have consulted many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House and, although I cannot speak for a party in this matter, we do assent, those of my hon. friends whom I have consulted, to this proposition. As the right hon. Gentleman said, it was proposed by a Select Committee 24 years ago, accepted by the Government of the day and defeated on a very narrow vote and when travel was brought in by the first Labour Government it was limited to travel between London and the constituency. That is, as the right hon. Gentleman said, a very tiresome restriction on hon. Members. It prevents their travelling on another main line to a station perhaps 20 miles from their constituency and I fully agree that this rather limited extension of travel facilities is fully justified.

11.16 p.m.

Photo of Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence , Orkney and Shetland

While welcoming very warmly what has been said about air travel, I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that what he has said does not quite meet the case of all of us and certainly not my own case, as the Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland. It so happens that my home is in the extreme North of Shetland, which involves me in a much longer journey than any other hon. Member has to undertake. The right hon. Gentleman said that rail travel would be allowed from the airport near the Member's home. But unfortunately, there are no railways in Shetland, and in fact I have a very long journey to make, involving the hiring of three motorcars and three motor boats. Now the cost of that journey is about £10. I feel that it would be a great injustice if I were left to pay a sum like that, when other Members are getting free travel facilities. It may be that there are one or two other cases like that, and I would be perfectly satisfied if the right hon. Gentleman would assure me that special cases of this kind could be considered by the Select Committee.

11.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

I do not wish to raise any point by way of obstruction. Rather do I wish to ask for information, on a point which has been puzzling me and quite a number of my hon. Friends who have homes within 20 or 25 miles of this House, and have constituencies elsewhere. We have no complaint whatever, for we enjoy free travel now and shall continue so to do. We are being granted a facility which means that, wherever our responsibilities may be, we shall enjoy further free travel facilities. But when I inquired at the Fees Office as to how this was going to operate, I was told that each day I shall have to present at the booking office a travel warrant, cluttering up the booking office, as many other people are doing with forms. It means five forms for five days. In addition, I find that at the Fee? Office already arrangements are being made to take on extra staff to deal with the accumulation of forms which will have to be docketed and filed and checked day by day. I cannot understand where we have got to if this is going to be the case.

This is not an imaginary situation; these are the facts and I put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that there is a simplification which could easily be applied. I travel with busmen, with Underground workers and with all types of person included among average Londoners; they each exhibit something to show they are entitled to be there anyway, and nobody bothers. Everyone recognises the ordinary pass. The Chancellor may say that he cannot go as far as that at the present time. May I put an alternative? If he will say that the travel warrant shall be like the ordinary, average shop assistant's weekly season ticket, instead of asking us to clutter up the Fees Office and everywhere else with forms that would simplify matters to a reasonable extent, it will certainly make matters cheaper for the nation and save quite a lot of time.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. McKie:

I do not want to delay the proceedings more than a minute or two, but I want to put a point somewhat similar to that put by the hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Shetland (Major Sir B. Neven-Spence) though by no means wholly identical. Of course, I welcome this whole idea of the extension of railway travel. But I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go a small step further, and to consider the question of providing increased facilities for travel within Members' constituencies. There are not many Members who have such large constituencies that personal expenditure on railway travel in them is a very large item in their personal expenditure. I am sorry I did not confess at the beginning, but I confess it now, that I have a personal interest in this matter, as has the hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Shetland. But when we are speaking in this House on a matter like this we are not dealing only with ourselves, but are thinking—and ought to be thinking—of those who will come after us. So I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider this matter, which must affect not a few Members for the county constituences of Scotland, and perhaps a few in England as well. For instance, my constituency is a very big one indeed, some 1,600 or 1,700 square miles, as large as some of the larger islands in the Mediterranean. I frequently had to travel during the war when I could not run my car because of the petrol restrictions and the not too generous provisions of the Fees Office in regard to petrol. I had to travel to keep in normal touch with my constituents in various parts a journey of 80 miles at a cost of 18s. or 20s. A journey like that once a month or once in three weeks would mean spending £12 or £18 per annum. I am seriously asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider a matter like this. The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) I am confident would support this. I ask the Chancellor to consider whether in large constituencies some provision could be made for those who have to take railway journeys on perfectly legitimate duties—not political but Parliamentary duties; whether some reasonable facilities might be extended whereby they could have free railway travel provided to the nearest railway station to their homes.

11.23 a.m.

Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , Dorset Southern

I think the pleas of both the last two speakers are very reasonable. I have risen only for the purpose of ask- ing the right hon. Gentleman when the scheme will come into force. I observe from the terms of the Motion that it is an expression of opinion of the House. Presumably it will be mandatory on somebody to do something. I suppose there will follow a Treasury Minute or some order?

11.24 a.m.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer about a point I raised before. From Glasgow, to my constituency, it is 12s. or 14s. by the train, and it is 4s. 6d. by the bus, and it is much more convenient to go by the bus than by the train. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer consider that? It would be a big saving to the Exchequer in my case, and perhaps in many others.

11.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Perhaps I may be permitted to answer the questions that have been put. The Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) asked when this would operate. The authorities of the House have been considering the matter in consultation with the Treasury, and we are hopeful that the new scheme will become effective on the first Monday in December, which is 3rd December. With regard to the administrative details, the Noble Lord is quite correct. We have worked upon this and if the House approves tonight, I would prefer to circulate in the Official Report the administrative arrangements we propose and I hope the House will accept this Motion without seeking, at this stage, to broaden or extend it in order to cover either hon. Members' air journeys or journeys by air-sea services beyond those already allowed. Hon. Members who represent constituencies like the Orkney and Shetland and islands off the mainland are permitted, under the terms of this Motion, free travel on any such journeys by any public rail, air or sea services. If they are not public services I am afraid they are not covered by this Motion.

Photo of Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence , Orkney and Shetland

There is no public service which can be used at the weekends.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

I am sorry, but in that case it is just too bad.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

The short answer is that everything can be considered by the Select Committee. What I am seeking to do is to anticipate this particular matter, because I think we might all agree upon it. Within these broad terms I think there will be agreement. There are all sorts of minor points, including that raised by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden). The Select Committee will look at all of them. What I am asking the House to do is to pass this Motion tonight.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that when an Order refers to a Member's home it ought to specify that the home must be in Great Britain; otherwise a Member may come along and say his home is in Canada or Moscow, or somewhere else.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Free sleepers are already provided between London and constituencies. Are they to be provided also between London and residence and between constituency and residence?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

That depends on railway facilities, and we must not ask too much of the railways at the moment.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Are sleepers to be provided free to the Member's place of residence or not?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

We are in danger, I think, of trying to deal, on this Motion, with all sorts of individual points. If it is the wish of the House I will continue to answer these questions but I think it would be to the general advantage to let these matters pass now, and for Members who have matters which they wish considered, to make representations to the Select Committee. Nothing in the new concessions implies the provision of any special priority for Members. For example, in the reservation of berths. Members should not expect any better treatment in this respect than they are getting at the moment—the same treatment but not better.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

The Chancellor has misunderstood my point. Does free travel cover sleepers in paragraphs (b) and (c) of his Motion in addition to paragraph (a) as at present?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Yes, provided sleepers are available, but the hon. Members must not expect priority over the rest of the community.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

Has the right hon. Gentleman formed any opinion on the cost of these concessions to the public?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Yes, Sir. At the outside some £20,000 in the first year—and probably less.

Resolved: That in the opinion of this House the facilities now available to a Member of this House travelling on Parliamentary duties between London and his constituency should be extended so as to provide facilities for free travel on such duties by any public railway, sea or air service, between—

  1. (a) London and his constituency;
  2. (b) London and such one other place out side his constituency as may have been notified by him to the Fees Office as being his ordinary residence; and
  3. (c) his constituency and such one other place as aforesaid.

Following is the Statement referred to by the CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER:

Arrangements for travel on Parliamentary duties by rail, sea or air, by Members of Parliament.

  1. 1. The extension of free travel facilities for rail, sea or air journeys between home and both London and constituency involves no other change in the general conditions governing the use of warrants.
  2. 2. Members who do not live in their constituencies will be asked to notify the Fees Office of the address of their ordinary residence and also the rail, sea and air services which they desire to use there from to both constituency and London. All Members desirous of using air travel between London and constituency will be asked to notify the Fees Office which scheduled air service they wish to use.
  3. 3. The rail station or airport to be used in relation to the ordinary residence will be that nearest to the residence, on the route to either the constituency or London.
  4. 4. A new warrant form will be used for the rail and sea journey between home and constituency. Arrangements are being made for the use of the existing warrant for the journey between London and either home or constituency.
  5. 5. As regards air travel, the existing warrant will continue to be used for both air and rail/air journeys—the latter being Journeys party by air and partly by rail—but arrangements will be made for this warrant to be accepted by the air companies and booking offices without payment by the Member. The cover of the book of air warrants will be suitably amended.
  6. 6. Particulars of the relevant scheduled air services and airports which may be used will continue to be shown on the cover of the air warrant book, for the convenience of Members. It will no longer be necessary for the Member to fill in the fares on the warrant.
  7. 7. Supplementary tickets for sleepers, etc., where available, may be obtained for use on journeys to and from the Member's home.
  8. 8. In the event of a Member removing from his declared ordinary residence he should notify the Fees Office immediately, so that revised journeys may be agreed.