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Clause 4. — (Powers of the Minister in relation to the Commission.)

Part of Transport Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd July 1947.

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Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South 12:00 am, 23rd July 1947

I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

I think we can easily resolve the difficulty by rejecting this Lords' Amendment. That is the course which I propose to recommend to the House on behalf of the Government. To relieve the anxiety of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) I will say that I would have moved the same Motion whether the words as or will be likely to be were in, or out. It occurs to me that we should devote our attention to what such an Amendment seeks to accomplish. The purpose of it is to limit the Minister's power to give directions to the Commission in reference to the carrying on of their undertakings if, in the opinion of the Minister, such a direction is necessary in the national interest. As a matter of fact, I am informed that it is very doubtful whether even if this Amendment were accepted in its present form, it would in fact limit the Minister's power. We all know from experience that it might in circumstances of very serious national emergency, be the subject of legal action for the purpose of delaying any action which the Government of the day might take in the exercise of such power. Therefore, in the opinion of the Government, we cannot possibly have in regard to important services which represent a considerable volume of employment in the country, the possibility of expenditure of large sums of capital either in accelerating or retarding development, as the case may be, and in other matters. I should have thought, in view of experiences which this country had in the early part of this year, that the wisdom of the Minister having power of direction of this character should be abundantly plain to hon. Members of this House, and of the other place.

Hon. Members are aware that during the fuel crisis it was imperative to maintain the economic life of this country when certain action had to he taken in regard to the use of transport for the transport of coal. Even today, the community is being compelled to suffer considerable inconvenience for the necessity of the railways contributing to and augmenting the coal stock position. A decision like the 10 per cent. cut in passenger services for the sake of building up coal stocks, represents an interference with the revenue-taking capacity of the railways at present. That is quite a recent example of the need for the Minister to have powers of this description. For those reasons, I have not the slightest hesitation in asking the House to disagree with the Lords in this Amendment.