Orders of the Day — Clause I. — (The Commission.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1947.

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Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South 12:00 am, 29th April 1947

What I am visualising is just the opposite. Once this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament its advantages will be so apparent to the people of this country that it will become a permanent institution. The public transport service is a public institution and one must look ahead and make provision for circumstances that arise from time to time in the life of the State. We have had two experiences in our lifetime of the strategic value and importance of the transport services in two world wars, and the necessity to be able to accommodate ourselves to circumstances of that character. Even recently we have passed through a fuel crisis of some magnitude, and it is to meet emergencies and contingencies of that character that I feel it is an advantage to leave the position free. Therefore, the provisions that govern the Commission at the present moment do not prevent the members of the Commission from being fulltime members; the intention is to start off with fulltime membership but to leave it free in the future to meet any circumstances that may arise.

I want to emphasise that the function of the Commission, in my view, does not represent that exhaustion of its time which has been assumed by many hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate. All its functions are of a policy character and policy decisions do not require the same amount of time as the day to day management of large undertakings. The Commission's job is to fulfil the purpose which Parliament has in view in passing this Bill. It will be responsible for co-ordination, it is true, but it will not have to carry out the task of co-ordination. That will be done from day to day by the executive bodies. The Commission will be responsible for seeing that the Executive work together to a common purpose.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman emphasised that road haulage services would have to be organised on probably a local or an area or a district basis. I do not disagree with that contention. It will not be the Commission's job to organise the road haulage services on a local or a district or an area basis. That will be the job of the Road Haulage Executive. He stated finally that the Commission would be responsible for preparing this charges scheme. That again is true, but the Commission, I assume, will have around it a very small but high-powered technical staff that will be able to do all the preparatory work of that description.

Therefore, having examined this matter from the beginning and listened to the arguments of hon. Members, I do not see that there is any case for increasing the number of members of this Commission. If the members were increased it would, I suggest, eventually lead them into the departmentalisation of their own individual work and functions. That is the position which we must avoid in a policy body. We do not want the members of the Commission to form themselves into a body of departmental Executives supervising any particular branch of transport. The purpose of the Commission essentially is to see that the purpose we have in mind of an adequate, co-ordinated, efficient transport service is carried out and performed by the Executives. That being the case, I trust the House will support the Government in this decision, because I believe that keeping the Commission small will compel it to act as a team. It will not break down its services, it will assume collective responsibility for this purpose and, by assuming collective responsibility as a Commission, by that process more than any other, the Minister and Whitehall will be relieved from the responsibility of conducting the affairs of this public transport service. Again, I regret that I am unable to accept this Amendment.