Orders of the Day — Steel Industry and Road Haulage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

I think the hon. Member will agree that he has had a very full opportunity for answering my point, and I make no complaint; but I say that in every other transport debate in which I have taken part—and these are legion—the spearpoint of the attack has been on the C licences. I was therefore right, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, to deal with what I consider is the only method of coping with the tendency for C licences to increase, and that is to have a sound road transport service.

The other point which the hon. Gentle-made about the come-back into the industry is a separate point and, if he will allow me and for the moment trust me, I will leave it for the time being and deal with it when I come to that point. It is not quite the same point as that which I was answering, which was about the excessive amount of labour employed.

I have explained why we think this action is necessary, and I want now to deal with the second question posed by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall—Why are we interrupting the present process? We are interrupting it because we do not think the line pursued by the Transport Act and the British Transport Commission is the way to integration. I remind the right hon. Gentleman of a point which he repeated so often, quite properly, when he was assisting his right hon. Friend with the Transport Bill—the point that the intention of the Act as laid down in Section 3 is: to provide, or secure or promote the provision of, an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated system of public inland transport and port facilities within Great Britain …. How often have we heard that impeccable objective held out as an excuse for a far-from-perfect performance. I am prepared to admit that an integrated system, if it is possible at all, cannot be built up in a day, but I have just said that it is almost exactly five years since I moved the rejection of that Bill, and surely approximately four years is long enough for the general outline of a new structure to become apparent, if it is ever to become apparent. Integration in the sense intended by the framers of the Act has not taken place and shows no sign of taking place within the foreseeable future. That is our answer to the right hon. Gentleman and it is an answer which, so far, has met no reply.

I turn now to the other point, that the public are getting a better service. I do not believe anyone in the House can get up and put his hand on his heart and say now, after the experience we have had, that the public are getting a better service. Certainly those who use the Commission's services do not think so, and they ought to know. We believe that many haulage businesses have been sacrificed to no purpose. We hope that a great many have not been disintegrated and dissolved beyond recall.

I know that we must all make party points, and I do not complain about that; I suppose I have made them; we have all made them, and we shall all make them again. What I object to is the inability to distinguish between merely financial troubles and the trouble of heart and soul which comes from destroying businesses into which people have put not only their money but also their lives and every particle of their energy. That is what we are fighting for today, and we have always said we would fight for it.

I turn now to a point with which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall did not deal. If I may say this about someone who is so careful, I have always felt that he has never really understood the possibilities of the licensing system for goods vehicles and the manner in which it could function. I know it is difficult to get every angle or aspect of the matter, but I hope the House will bear with me here, because it is an important part of our proposals and of my argument to show how this will function.

We recognise that a licensing system, with independent licensing authorities, is a most important matter. We have never accepted the position propounded by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall that, because an entity is a public corporation, it therefore has the right to dictate the extent and scope of its opponents' service and it has no need to suffer what in the right hon. Gentleman's view is an indignity for a public corporation— namely, itself appearing before an independent authority. That is not our view of a free society and we do not think it is compatible with a free society. That is why we have put forward these proposals—which the right hon. Gentleman ignored, of course, in his speech—that both sides, both private enterprise and public enterprise, should come before a licensing authority.