Transport Fare Increases

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th April 1952.

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3.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

On a point of order. I raised with you by letter, Mr. Speaker, a point on the scope of today's debate. Eight weeks ago, on the British Transport Commission Bill, some of us raised with you the question of the scope of the debate. I, in particular, raised the issue whether we could talk about fares, and you, quite properly in my judgment, following the precedent set by your predecessor, ruled that we could not discuss fares because there was no Ministerial responsibility.

That view was held by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and let us be quite clear about it. Your Ruling was a sequel to the Ruling given on three previous occasions by your predecessor. I was then anxious in the course of my speech to say something about the fares which affected my constituency particularly badly, and I was proceeding to read a letter from one of my constituents when Mr. Deputy-Speaker, quite properly as it turned out, ruled me out of order.

I want to know whether, as a result of the further investigation which the legal experts have given to the powers of the Minister, we are now free to do what we were not free to do eight weeks ago, because eight weeks ago I sought to raise the issue of today's debate and was ruled out of order. I just want to know, in case by chance I catch your eye or that of your deputy later in the proceedings, whether I shall now be able to make the speech I wanted to make eight weeks ago.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

May I respectfully draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the reply given a few moments ago by the Prime Minister in answer to a question I put to him, which makes it quite clear that, in the view of the Government, the Minister of Transport is responsible to this House for fares?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

In reply to the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), the Ruling which I gave on the occasion to which he has referred was a Ruling given when a Private Bill was under discussion. Therefore, it is not on all fours with the position today. On that occasion I ruled that it would be inappropriate to discuss fares because there was a mechanism set up in a Public Act—namely, Section 47 of the Transport Act—for determining fares, and that it would be improper to seek in a Private Bill to vary the provisions of a Public Act. Therefore, that Ruling still stands, but it does not in any way prevent the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Gentlemen from discussing fares on the Motion put down today, which is particularly on the question of fares.

May I say one thing about the course of the debate? The Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen is one to add words at the end of the Motion. If the debate is to be as wide as probably the whole House wants it to be, I think it would be convenient if the formal moving of that Amendment were deferred to a later hour, otherwise the debate might possibly be constricted to the question of whether or not to add the words.

Photo of Sir Fitzroy Maclean Sir Fitzroy Maclean , Lancaster

On a point of order. Could you give a Ruling whether or not it is in order to table Questions about fares?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The matter of Questions is still under examination by a Select Committee. I undertook earlier to operate a provisional procedure until the Committee has reported and the House has come to some decision upon its report. In the meantime, each Question must be judged on its merits.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

Further to your Ruling just now, Mr. Speaker, do I understand that if the Amendment is not moved until a later hour, the debate will be wider than it would be if it were moved earlier? In other words, we shall have a wider debate on the main Motion?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is so. If the Amendment is not moved till a later time the debate can be as wide as the House desires.

3.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I beg to move, That this House approves the action taken by the Minister of Transport to suspend the introduction outside the London area of new railway charges which would have increased disproportionately the cost of season tickets, workmen's fares and concessionary rates for special classes of passenger; upholds the decision that these disproportionate increases should not be applied to railway charges outside the London area; and agrees that means should be sought of applying the same principle, so far as practicable, to the rail and omnibus fares already introduced within the London area. This Motion, which it falls to me to move in place of my hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, whose illness we all regret so much, invites the House to approve of three main propositions: first, the temporary suspension outside the London area of all increases in railway charges which would otherwise take place under the recently confirmed charges scheme, and which would include disproportionate increases in the cost of season tickets, workmen's fares and concessionary rates for special classes of passenger; secondly, that the decision on these disproportionate increases outside the London area should not be put into force; and thirdly, that means should be sought of applying the same principle, as far as practicable, to the rail and omnibus fares already introduced within the London area.

The principle upon which the Government are acting is that, while the public generally can rightly be called upon to pay the cost of providing them with reasonable transport services, it is unfair to call upon particular classes of passengers to pay increases which are out of all proportion to those applicable to the public generally and which cause an unexpected upset in their daily lives. To give a single example: it is a severe hardship upon a man who has taken his season ticket rate into account in choosing his place of residence to have such an increase as 42 per cent. suddenly added to a figure which may already bulk very large in his domestic budget. In the Government's view, such increases illustrate the perhaps inevitable tendency of the vast organisations created by the Socialist Government to regard the public as a mere disposable economic unit. Private enterprise, I say, has to satisfy its customers individually or perish.

I may perhaps remind the House of some of the material dates which have relevance to the subject of this debate. In April, 1951, when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had still some period, not a very long period, of office in which to dissipate such ability as they possess, the Commission submitted to the Transport Tribunal a draft Passenger Charges Scheme covering all the Commission's rail and road passenger services throughout the country. This scheme superseded the earlier scheme relating to the passenger fares in the London area which was already in operation. The scheme was confirmed by the Tribunal, with modifications, on 27th February, 1952, and the relevant order made by the Transport Tribunal provided that it should come into operation on 2nd March in the London area and in the rest of the country on 1st May.

In London, therefore, the scheme came into operation four days after it was confirmed. Preliminary indications had been given by the Tribunal in January as to the general line they intended to take, but this was not in sufficient detail to enable a judgment to be formed of the precise impact of the scheme on the public. This became evident in the London area as soon as the scheme itself was put into operation, and public complaint immediately arose, particularly in the cases where the joint effect of the increase in the scale and the alteration of the length of stages was to cause particularly steep increases.

The Minister of Transport, accordingly, on 11th March remitted this particular aspect of the operation of the scheme to the Central Transport Consultative Committee for their consideration. The Committee considered, not only the Minister's remit, but other representations which they received in regard to the increases which had already taken place in London and were likely to take place in the rest of the country on 1st May.

Of course, the Committee could have made recommendations about the way in which the Commission was to exercise the discretion which the scheme left to them as to the actual fares they charged within the maxima which the scheme prescribed. If they had done so, the Minister could, under the terms of the Transport Act, have given effect to them by means of a special direction under Section 6 (8). The Committee did not so recommend. Nevertheless, the Government took the view that the fares which the Commission were already charging in London and would charge in the rest of the country from 1st May were, as I will explain, likely to cause great and undue hardship to a large section of our fellow citizens.

A glance at the provisions of the scheme outside London shows how fully justified was that view. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will have some time today to declare whether they believe that that view was not justified or whether it was justified. We await with interest to hear these declarations, individual or collective. [Laughter.] I gather from the laughter that we may wait in vain.

It is essential to remember that, although single and ordinary return fares exist, most people use monthly return tickets. On 1st January, 1952, the Commission had increased the monthly return fares by 10 per cent. When the draft Passenger Charges Scheme was before the Tribunal, the Commission had intimated their intention to make this increase. The Commission were, however, able to make the increase under the authority of their existing powers without waiting for the confirmation of the draft scheme.

Therefore, although the present basis of 2.44d. per mile for third-class ordinary fares is to be reduced to 1.75d. per mile—with liability to increase to 2d. per mile from the beginning of 1953—this will not have the effect which might be supposed because the great bulk of ordinary passengers take monthly return tickets at 1.79d. per mile. In future, there will be no monthly return tickets and the ordinary return fare will be 1.75d. per mile, virtually the same as the old monthly return including the 10 per cent. increase made in January, 1952.

So much for the ordinary fares. The scheme, however, affects season tickets and workmen's fares in two ways. First of all, it permits the alteration of the basic scales by amounts varying from 3 per cent. to 9 per cent. for season tickets and from 6 per cent. to 35 per cent. for workmen's fares, according to the distance travelled. But secondly—this is in addition—it allows the Commission discretion to raise sub-standard fares to standard provided that this, taken in conjunction with the increase in the basic scale which I have just mentioned, does not exceed a limit of 42 per cent. It is in these classes of case that some of the most acute hardships arise.

The scheme also leaves the Commission free to abolish all concession fares, subject again to a maximum increase of 42 per cent. In a number of cases increases of this order would actually occur. These include anglers, commercial travellers, members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, members of the Mercantile Marine—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but this is a rather serious thing for the members of the Mercantile Marine. Those who represent, as I do, a great seaport know how serious this is. I see one hon. Gentleman opposite who does, and I am sure that he appreciates this.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

This includes members of the Mercantile Marine travelling on leave, shipwrecked mariners, daily return tickets for entertainers and music hall artists, return tickets for workers on the land—I do not know if they have any interest for hon. Gentlemen opposite—and visitors to children at approved schools—surely one of the most poignant of all these classes. I am not going to read letters, but every hon. Member has had letters dealing with these various classes.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

In view of the profound sympathy which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is expressing—which we support—can he tell us why his Government, who are so sincere about these classes of people, are now introducing the National Health Service Bill, which punishes cripples?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

When I was a boy at school, I had great difficulty in defining a tangent. Since the hon. Member has asked me that question, I shall have no difficulty in the future; I shall merely say that it was shown in a question put to me by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). The hon. Member knows very well that we are discussing fares today. However attractive that subject may be—[Interruption.] I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, and I am scrupulously careful in giving way if I possibly can, and I think that hon. Members opposite should allow me to answer the question which has been put to me. The hon. Member knows that he has raised an important point, but because of the rules of order, I cannot follow him into that divergency today. I hope some other time to have the chance of debating it with him.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has dealt with various types of parties or classes of people who will be affected. Do I take it that parties to Ascot and other race meetings would come under the same provisions as those for shipwrecked mariners and others with whom he has been dealing?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I am sorry, but I have not the same interest as the hon. Member has in parties to Ascot and I have not discovered whether they are covered. I am prepared to confine my case to the classes of people to whom I have referred.

It is the view of the Government that the effect on the finances of the Commission of withdrawing or reducing some of these concessions does not justify depriving certain classes of passengers of privileges which they have long enjoyed and which were presumably granted by the former railway companies for good and sufficient reason.

The alterations authorised or required by the scheme vary according to the type of fare, but outside the London area there are sub-standard fares of all types, and the effect of applying the permitted increases in full would in many cases involve substantial increases. For instance, although the rate per mile for ordinary fares is reduced by the scheme, the application of the new rate would in many cases result in substantial increases where the fares at present charged are below standard. If I may point this out to my last interrupter, such cases are common in Scotland.

Take early morning fares. There the effect of increasing the sub-standard fares would be small in England and Wales but far from negligible in Scotland. Again, a high proportion of existing season ticket rates are below standard, particularly in the Northern Region, the Southern Region, the Eastern Region and, again, in the Scottish Region.

The Government realise that the Commission, in common with undertakings of all kinds throughout the country, have had to meet large increases in the cost of labour and materials, and the public cannot expect that the price of transport should remain constant while the cost of other services and commodities has risen; and we all know that it has. But the public can reasonably expect that every effort should be made to effect all possible economies, and it has in fact been made clear that after that had been done, if transport charges had remained static, the Government would have had to subsidise the Commission in some form or another.

This they do not propose to do. They must not destroy the incentive of the Commission to effect economies which will keep the cost of transport as low as possible. Subsidies which merely serve to conceal economic facts are of no service to the community as a whole. But it is entirely consistent with this view that the injustice caused by sudden alterations of established practices out of all proportion to the general rise should be removed. I shall deal in a few moments with the figures involved.

It has been suggested in some quarters that the Government have exceeded their statutory powers, or unwarrantably interfered with the operation of the Transport Act, in issuing a standstill direction to the Transport Commission about the increase which would otherwise come into force on 1st May. The Government are in no doubt at all about their powers, and indeed their duties, in this matter.

Section 4 of the Transport Act empowers the Minister to give a direction to the Transport Commission if the Minister thinks it is in the national interest. If the Minister does think it is in the national interest, having regard to the effect on the cost of living and on productivity and other factors, that the principle of sub-standard rates for workmen's tickets, season tickets, leave tickets and other so-called sub-standard fares should be preserved and that such fares should not be unduly raised, the Minister has a right and a duty to give a general direction under Section 4 to the Commission as to the exercise of their powers under a scheme confirmed by the Tribunal.

Photo of Mr Percy Collick Mr Percy Collick , Birkenhead

And to make up the difference in the cost.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

If the Commission have not discretion under any existing scheme to carry out the direction, they have the duty under Section 85 of the Transport Act to make any necessary application to the Tribunal to enable them to do so, and the Tribunal cannot then refuse to give effect to the application. The Minister's power to give such a direction is not fettered by any recommendation that the Central Transport Consultative Committee may make.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

Oh, no. The discretion is not fettered anywhere. I am coming to that and I shall explain it. I am not in any way objecting to the keenness of the hon. and gallant Gentleman about the London position, and I hope to show how it can be dealt with. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will wait a moment, I shall come to that point.

I want hon. Members opposite to appreciate that I am very anxious that the plan which I am putting before them should be fully understood, and if there is any difficulty in the legal position which I have tried to explain I shall be only too glad to do my best to resolve it; but I say that Parliament deliberately inserted the provision that the Minister should give directions of a general character where, in his opinion, the national interests so required.

In doing this, Parliament had two aims: first, that, subject to the Transport Tribunal, the Transport Commission should be responsible for the day-to-day running of its business; and second, that with a nationalised monopoly there must be some power for the Minister to intervene where the national interests so require. Parliament fully understood the necessity of this.

I realise very well that different views may exist as to when the point is reached at which the Minister should intervene. I say that the point is reached when for a large section of our countrymen the basis of the choice of place of residence in relation to the earning of their daily bread is suddenly and unexpectedly upset. In the last resort, the Government and Parliament are the shield of these classes of individuals against injustice. It is certainly in the national interest in the highest sense that the Government should fulfil their duty in this respect.

We have not interfered with the proper functions of either the Transport Tribunal or the Commission. We have not required the Commission to do anything that is at variance with the decision of the Transport Tribunal embodied in the order of 27th February. This decision laid down maxima within which the Commission had power to levy charges. We have not varied or attempted to vary any of these maxima. All that we have done, and all that we intended to do, was to temper the wind to the flocks of more severely shorn lambs.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman kindly explain why the Minister of Transport took exactly the opposite view and stated in this House that it would not be proper for him to interfere?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The right hon. Gentleman has raised that point, and, although it may take a few moments, I hope the House will not hold it against me if I stop in the course of my argument to deal with it, because it is a point which ought to be dealt with.

I take it that the right hon. Gentleman has first in mind, if I may put it that way, the replies of my hon. Friend the Minister to a number of Questions on 10th March, when the Minister announced his intention to refer to the Central Transport Consultative Committee the alterations of fare stages and of fares in relation to them in the London area. He added: … under the Transport Act, 1947, no action other than reference to the Consultative Committee is open to me."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1021.] It was quite clear from the context of this Question and the answers that my hon. Friend on that occasion was dealing with what I may call—and those who are familiar with the Act will under- stand—the normal working of the Act. He was not dealing, and was not purporting to deal, with the exercise of what the Act itself, in its headings, calls the overriding powers, which I mentioned a few moments ago, and a fair reading of the Question makes that quite clear.

There is the second point, which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has appreciated—and I have already mentioned it today—that, in view of the statutory powers which inure after action by the Central Transport Consultative Committee, it was obviously right, first, to see if there could be obtained from the Consultative Committee such a report as would allow these directions to be used. If that is not obtained, one is thrown back from Section 6 (8) of the Act to Section 4, with the corollary of Section 85.

My hon. Friend was asked another Question that day. It was Question No 79, and, again, I want to make the point—which I have already put before the House, and I hope the House will excuse me for repeating it—that, at that stage, the Minister had not sufficient information about the way in which the Commission proposed to exercise their discretion with regard to fares outside London and took no action. That came a few days later. The right hon. Gentleman will know that Question No. 79 on the same day related to outside London.

I think the next occasion on which my hon. Friend was asked a Question was on 17th March, and then he said that it would not be proper for him to issue directions such as those to which the Question referred. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, who is always a fair debater, if he will allow me to say so, to look at the way in which the Question was put? The Question asked about directions to ensure— … that this burden is evenly shared in all sections of the country."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1919.] The Minister clearly did not mean that he had no powers, but that he must use them after due consideration, not only of his legal—[Interruption.] It will be easier if hon. Gentlemen opposite take the argument which I am putting, and I am quite prepared, if any of them disputes any proposition in law or the accuracy of my statements, to give way, if he will stand up and say so.

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Birmingham, Perry Barr

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain this point? Is he suggesting that, on the several occasions on which Mr. Speaker allowed the Clerks at the Table to refuse to accept Questions relating to fares, saying that the Minister was not responsible, that really was a breach of the rights of the House?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

No, and I have made that perfectly clear. I have explained that Section 4 of the Act deals with general directions concerning the national interests, and it would clearly not be a matter of general directions affecting the national interests if the hon. Gentleman's train to Birmingham was 10 minutes late.

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Birmingham, Perry Barr

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has obviously misunderstood my question. I made no reference whatever to trains being late. I referred to questions relating to fares, the subject which we are discussing today. Perhaps he will explain that?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I certainly shall, and the same would apply. I have made the point perfectly clear that we are saying that it is a matter of the national interest that a large section of the public are adversely affected by a sudden increase in fares which is disproportionate in that it affects them more than the rest of the public.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I will give way in a moment. If hon. Gentlemen will only emulate Patience on a monument and sit still for a little while, I will deal with them. But I hope the House will remember that this is already an excursus when dealing with a point raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I hope that they will be moderate in the number of their interventions.

Photo of Mr Albert Davies Mr Albert Davies , Stoke-on-Trent North

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to Section 4 of the Act for his defence. As far as the Minister and the Government are concerned, was not Section 4 of the Act designed to build up new schemes where privileges or conditions were likely to be worsened, and where the Minister had a direct interest, and not designed to deal, as in the present instance, with a scheme of transport which had been in operation and upon which an independent or semi- independent tribunal, like the Rates Tribunal, had examined the matter, and against which the Central Transport Consultative Committee had expressed a considered viewpoint? Was it not designed for those circumstances, rather than the considered view which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now putting.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I respectfully, but entirely, disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not know what was in his mind when he cast his vote for the passing of Section 4, but it was certainly in the minds of the vast majority of people in the House that there was to be given to the Minister the right to intervene when a matter of the national interest was affected.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, allow me to answer his hon. Friend before he exhibits his desires. I was saying to his hon. Friend that if he wished to find the authority in the Act for that point—I am sure he was asking with the desire to find out—he should re-read Section 85, which refers back to Section 4.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has a capacity for making the most preposterous statements in a most convincing manner. I want to ask him a question. Assuming that the Minister has powers—about which I am not arguing at the moment—how does the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain the answer given by the Minister on 10th March, not that it would be improper, as he said on another occasion—which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has tried to dodge—but that it would be inconsistent with the purposes of the Act for him to interfere?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I have already explained—and I challenge anyone, reading the Questions as a whole, to take any other view—that on 10th March my hon. Friend was dealing with the normal functioning of the Act and not with the over-riding provisions. [Interruption.] It is perfectly clear. I must ask the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) to keep his somewhat synthetic passion for his own speech.

Photo of Mr Thomas Price Mr Thomas Price , Westhoughton

I rise only in answer to the challenge by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. On the occasion on which I was fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, when Questions were being put to the Minister of Transport, I put a supplementary question drawing the attention of the Minister to the serious effect on workmen's fares in Lancashire and he replied to me to the effect that he appreciated that I was asking him to amend the Transport Act, 1947, which he had no power to do.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I have read these Questions. What I asked hon. Gentlemen opposite was that they might suggest whether I had made any mistake in regard to the Transport Act. They have not made that suggestion. I have dealt with these periods and I have shown what was in the Questions. It is easy to pick out one sentence. It always is. If those Questions are read in their context, it appears clear that my hon. Friend the Minister of Transport was dealing with the normal provisions and not with the over-riding powers, and that on 10th March he had not the information about the outside-London provisions.

Let me pass to the action, intention, and objective of the Government's action in relation to the position outside London. On 15th April, the Minister of Transport, under Section 4 of the Transport Act, directed the Commission not to increase the charges outside London beyond the amount of the charges in force on the day of the direction. The intention of that action was to prevent the onset of the sudden and unexpected changes which I have described. We believe that it will be possible for the Ministry of Transport to work out with the Commission the means of preventing such a rise in the substandard fares as would have been, as I have shown, out of all proportion to the rise in ordinary fares.

It is our earnest desire that this working out should proceed harmoniously. I have indicated the powers which the Minister has, not, believe me, in any desire to flourish a big stick but simply to show that the first step has not been taken without a clear view of the end of the statutory road. I will now deal with the intentions of the Government with regard to London.

Photo of Mr Percy Collick Mr Percy Collick , Birkenhead

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a question?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

Would the hon. Gentleman allow me a few minutes? I want to develop this part of my argument, and it is difficult. I will give way to him when I have finished this part.

I have indicated the reasons which made it quite impacticable to direct a standstill in London. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will remember that I said that it was necessary to refer to the Consultative Committee and to get their view. If that view had been obtained, special action would have been possible. Nevertheless, we intend to find the means of securing that, as far as practicable, the same principles shall apply in London as in the rest of the country. It may take longer because of the intricacy of the problem and the complication of bus fares.

Again, the Ministry will endeavour to work out with the Commission the best method of removing the hardship which has fallen on those who have planned their lives in reliance on the existence of sub-standard fares. In this case also our powers are adequate under the Act as it exists. We believe that when the principle of avoidance of rises out of proportion to the general advance is appreciated this can be worked out.

I now want to deal with the suggestions which are basic to the Amendment of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and in relation to this I shall deal with the question of cost.

Photo of Mr Percy Collick Mr Percy Collick , Birkenhead

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Government intend to consult with the Transport Commission on this matter. Am I right in understanding that the Government now intend themselves to take the responsibility for fixing railway fares?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman has not appreciated the complications of the Act for which the Socialist Government were responsible. What we want to do is this. Outside London we have given a standstill direction. During the time of the standstill, the Ministry of Transport and the Transport Commission together should work out a means by which a differential of standard and sub-standard fares is maintained. I have said, and I say again quite frankly to the House, that I would much rather that that should be done, as I believe it can be done, by working out an arrangement harmoniously in that way, which will obviate the necessity of further directions. What I have been intent to show to the House is that the powers to give those directions are there.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

Really, I must go on. I ask hon. Gentlemen to let me develop my argument. I have not failed to give way so far, but I want to put these points in a consecutive form. I hope that another opportunity for the hon. Gentleman will arise.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

On a point of order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he was glad to give carte blanche to hon. Members to interrupt him. In order to get a little more order into the proceedings, will you ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw that invitation?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I did hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a very general invitation to that side of the House, but I hope, in the interests of consecutive debate and good order, that they will not accept it.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The invitation was given in regard to any legal point on the Transport Act. I have left that somewhat arid section of my speech, and I am going to deal with the position created by the Amendment and, in the words of the hon. Gentleman who just interrupted, I am glad to deal with this Amendment. May I say a general word about it?

One can well appreciate the obvious difficulty which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had in framing the Amendment. Naturally they did not want to go on record as being in favour of some of the unreasonable increases in fares which were the result of the system created by their own Act. On the other hand, they are naturally unwilling to admit that the Government are taking a sensible line in protecting classes of the public against excessive increases in fares. If the Amendment had any anatomy at all, one might call it a red herring; but it is composed of ill-fitting pieces which do not make an articulate whole. It is quite clear that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are looking for a bolthole to avoid declaring themselves on the question of indubitable hardship. But those manœuvres will not prevent them from having to face the simple question: do they want substandard fares to continue or not?

The Amendment first speaks of a "confused position", but there has been no confusion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!" I ask hon. Gentlemen to wait for it. There has been no confusion in the minds of the Government, at least: I am not responsible for the party opposite. The fact is that Socialist legislation has given rise to a difficult situation for the people of this country—a situation which has had to be closely and carefully examined. The issues involved are of great importance to the public and to the Commission itself. In fairness to both, we could not act hastily, and for the present we have to work with the Transport Act as we find it. Later we shall alter the Act and, at the risk of disappointing hon. Members opposite, I must inform them that there is no disagreement whatever in the Government on this topic.

The second allegation in this disjointed Amendment is that the Government have made no proposal for making up the deficit in the revenue of the Commission, which would be "further adversely affected"—I venture to repeat those words "further adversely affected"—"if road haulage were de-nationalised." Here it is just as well to look at a few facts. First, the Transport Tribunal were informed by the Commission in the course of the proceedings on the present scheme that their estimated deficit for 1951 was anywhere between zero and £10 million and that £5 million would be a safe figure to take. That was the suggestion of the Commission in putting their case before the Tribunal.

The object of the exercise which we are discussing this afternoon was to meet this deficit. The accounts for 1951 have not been published, but it would seem that, before the present increases come into operation, there will in all probability be no deficit at all. Therefore, the clamant purpose of the increases under discussion disappears. There is clearly a definite margin over the position which these increases were designed to rectify.

This position will not be affected to any appreciable extent by the suspension of the increases outside London. These increases were estimated to yield £2.1 million in a year. I cannot say to a day how long the period of suspension will be, but clearly it will be only a fraction of a year. A year is £2.1 million, a quarter of a year comes to about £500,000. I admit that the fare structure of the organisations of the Commission is extremely complicated, and discussion with the Commission as to the form of the adjustments will necessarily take a little time. However, it is clear that the maximum thus involved in this suspension is a fraction of £2.1 million.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

That does not include London?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I am just coming to London. I said specifically that was outside London, and that is where the suspension has applied. All the adjustments we have in mind, including London, might result in a diminution of the estimated revenue of the Commission by something of the order of £2½ million a year. I cannot at present be pinned to an exact figure. This would not be such as to affect materially the overall financial position of the Commission, taking one year with another as the Act says. There is the further point that the proposals for the Amendment of the Transport Act, which the Government hope shortly to lay before the House, will in their view eventually lower the cost of transport.

That is the position as to the figures involved in this exercise. I now come to the reference to the de-nationalisation of road haulage which has been introduced to compose another part of this disjointed Amendment. The reference in it to the adverse effect on the Commission of de-nationalising road transport must again, surely, have been made without looking at the figures in the published accounts of the Commission. So far the Road Haulage Executive has been a financial burden on the Commission. Incidentally, these figures throw a strong light on the effect of nationalising a highly individual industry such as road transport. Let me put these figures before the House.

By the end of 1948 the Road Haulage Executive were operating 8,000 vehicles acquired by the Commission. In that year, when I suppose some of the impetus of private ownership was still in operation, they made an operating surplus of approximately £1,100,000. That was before paying the interest on the net value of the assets which they had acquired and used. By the end of 1949, that is, in another year, the figure of vehicles had increased from 8,000 to 35,000, but instead of the operating surplus increasing in anything like the same proportion, it rose by only £200,000.

In 1950 a further 5,000 vehicles were added to the Executive's flock, but what was the result? Their operating surplus completely disappeared and was replaced by an operating deficit of over £1 million. The net operating surplus over these three years was about £1,300,000, which was much below the amount required to pay interest at 3 per cent. on the net value of the assets acquired and used by the Executive. Road haulage was running at a loss.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

No, I must finish this part of my speech—

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member must not remain on his feet.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

If the hon. Gentleman will only restrain that synthetic passion for his own speech, he will hear that I am just coming to his point. I have the full authority of the Kitchen Committee to say that synthetic passion does not taste any better réchauffé.

I am coming to 1951. It is expected that the results for 1951 will be better—and will show an appreciable operating surplus—

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

—but this is hardly surprising in view of the fact that the Commission enjoy a virtual monopoly over a considerable field of road haulage and are not subject to any effective control in their road haulage charges. I am told, however, that in any case the operating surplus for 1951 is likely to do little more than meet the Executive's share of the Commission's central charges, including the interest on the relevant Transport Stock.

No doubt we shall be assured by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), that prosperity in transport is just round the corner. According to him, it always is, but the results so far show that we shall not deprive the Commission of a goldmine by de-nationalising road transport. On the contrary, we are conferring a financial benefit on them.

Hon. Members:

Hand the railways back.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , The Wrekin

The right hon. and learned Gentleman—

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am on a point of order myself. The point of order is—

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Order. The point of order is simply this: if a Minister does not give way, other hon. Members should not remain on their feet.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , The Wrekin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it correct for the Minister to confuse the House by treating, in his analysis of road haulage finance—[Interruption.] Wait for it.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That really is a point of debate and not of order.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I should not like it to be thought that, in quoting these figures, I intend to criticise the Road Haulage Executive or their staff. I know that they have made a great and loyal effort to make a success of the undertaking with which they have been saddled by the Act. The figures do, however, show how far the Act has fallen short of the purpose of its framers and what practical results we may expect from the integration to which the Amendment rashly calls attention.

There is one other aspect which we must always bear in mind, for the sake of the railways, as for everyone else. Apart from the vehicles of the Road Haulage Executive, there are 120,000 vehicles operating on short distance owned by A and B licence holders and nearly 800,000 by C licence holders; and the C licence holders carry the licence-holders' goods only. [An HON. MEMBER: "They do not."] The owners prefer the risk and expense of empty loads to leaving themselves to the nationalised road service. This fact cannot be forgotten by any fairminded person in search of a solution.

The Amendment calls for a review of the financial basis of the British Transport Commission. I do not know what particular form this review would take, except that if these equivocal words mean anything at all, the reviewers are not to consider any adverse affect that nationalisation may have. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would not only select the terms of reference, but would decide in advance what the reviewers should find.

The Opposition have, surely, not changed their view that transport should be self-supporting in the long run; nor, I am sure, would any responsible Member of the Opposition suggest for one moment that the present Government should go back on the bargain made by their predecessors with the shareholders of the former railway companies whom they compulsorily dispossessed of their property. The essence of the bargain was that the shareholders in general should accept a reduced income, but should have that income guaranteed by the Government. To go back upon this, apart from any moral issue involved, could not fail to wreck public credit.

I fully appreciate the motives of my hon. Friends, who represent constituencies with which I have strong personal ties, in putting down the second Amendment, but on this Motion I should not be in order in discussing the general Highland problem. I have, however, indicated that, although the rate per mile for ordinary fares is reduced by the scheme, the application of the new rate would in many cases result in substantial increases where the fares at present charged are below standard, and that such cases are common in Scotland. I have also indicated the effect in Scotland on early morning fares of increasing the sub-standard fares and season tickets. In these respects, our proposals would help Scotland.

But today hon. Members have a simple duty before them. The choice is whether workmen's tickets, season tickets and useful concession fares should stay and, if they stay that the increase made to them should be, broadly, in accord with the increase to ordinary fares, or whether it should be so much greater as to cause undue hardship to those who use and rely upon them. A refusal to vote for the Motion—it matters not by what Parliamentary manoeuvre it is accompanied—is a vote for the continuance of that hardship. I dare hon. Gentlemen opposite to vote against the Motion.

4.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

The speech to which we have just listened is as partisan, as political and as tactical as the decision of the Government which is under debate. That decision was political. It had electoral considerations behind it, and the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman had similar electoral and political considerations behind it. It was not the speech of a great lawyer advocating a serious case. It was the speech of a partisan trying to score political points. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister should not sit there looking so jolly and interrupting my speech, because the Prime Minister, having been the main decider of this issue, ought to have been on his feet instead of the Home Secretary. Therefore, whilst we take it as some concession to Parliamentary decencies that the Prime Minister should be here at all, I should have thought that he ought either to open the debate or keep quiet.

This, according to the newspapers—and the Prime Minister thoroughly enjoyed it at the time—was a personal decision of the Prime Minister. He may well have taken it to the Cabinet, and I can almost describe exactly what happened. I can well imagine that this was boomed as the great Prime Minister intervening to protect people of limited means and humble origin. Therefore, having had all the publicity and credit—if it was credit—for the decision of the Government, I think it was a bit too bad that he should pass the buck of defending the Government to the Home Secretary, who has no Departmental responsibility for this whatever. The Home Secretary is not even a co-ordinating Minister on this matter.

What the Prime Minister evidently said to the Secretary of State was, "Well, I do not altogether understand this too well. It is true I was the main factor in creating the decision, but I cannot stand up to argument and cross-examination about it. You are a great lawyer, so take on the job of professional advocacy on my behalf."

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

Is the right hon. Gentleman trying to create out of his imagination a pure invention of what I said, which has no connection with anything I ever said at any moment?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

I admitted that I was drawing on my knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, which is considerable, because I have seen him in action on this kind of matter. I am drawing on my imagination, I quite agree, as to what probably happened, and I think that I am not far wrong with the picture I have drawn.

I join with the Home Secretary in expressing the regret of all of us, on both sides of the House, that the Minister of Transport is not well enough to be with us today. We fully accept the explanations which have been given as to his illness. Not only that, but we express the very sincere wish that he may soon be fully restored to health. I can imagine that he has had a very worrying time about this and other matters. Therefore, my sympathy is with him all the more. I earnestly hope that his worries may be relieved and that he may soon be fully recovered.

I will relieve the Home Secretary right away by telling him that his invitation to us and his fervent enthusiasm that we should go into the Lobby against the Government's decision is doomed to disappointment. We are not going into the Lobby against the Government Motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Whoever was simple enough to think we should? The Prime Minister the other day, when questions were being put, rather indicated that some smart Alec move would be made, and here it is—well up to, or down to, the standards of the Prime Minister. He rather indicated that he was going to put us on the spot, but we are not on the spot at all. We shall not vote against the Government Motion. We shall vote for the Opposition Amendment, which seeks to add words to the Government Motion.

Nor are we arguing that in no circumstances should the Government intervene with a view to protecting the public interest. I can imagine a number of circumstances of general economic considerations, or of general considerations of some sort, in which it is quite right for a Government to intervene and to give a direction under Section 4. If for example, there was a proposal as to the cost of transporting coal which was vital in respect of our export trade, it might well be proper for the Government to intervene and to give a direction. I am not saying that in no circumstances should the Government intervene and give a direction, but we must examine the manner and the circumstances in which this particular general direction under Section 4 has been given.

Let us see what Section 4 (1) says, because it is important to keep in mind the actual provisions of the Section. It says that: The Minister may, after consultation with the Commission, give to the Commission directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance by the Commission of their functions in relation to matters which appear to him to affect the national interest, and the Commission shall give effect to any such directions. The direction the Minister of Transport gave to the Transport Commission is presumably meant to be a general direction under that subsection, but I am bound to say that to us on this side of the House—and I am quite sure to the general public outside this House—the action by the Minister in this case bears all the outward marks of a piece of pure panic action, not thought out or properly considered action; but panic action into which the Conservative Party has allowed itself to be stampeded, probably by the Prime Minister, in view of the rising tide of discontent, as evidenced by the recent county council elections.

On this, in the absence of the Minister of Transport, I wish to press the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry—I understand that he will wind up the debate later in the day in the absence of the Minister and the unwillingness of the Prime Minister to participate in the debate. Section 4 of the Transport Act, 1947, was framed for a specific purpose, namely, to enable the Minister, without interfering with the day to day activities of the Transport Commission, to give a direction on general matters when the overriding interests of the people required that it should be given. It was not an instrument to put in his hand to use for purely party purposes. To check party motives, the wording of the Section was carefully framed. The Minister was not to give such a direction in the first place unless he had previously consulted the Commission and, secondly, it was only to be a direction which he could give, if I may quote the words of the subsection again, in relation to matters which appear to him to affect the national interest. If he gives a general direction without prior consultation with the Commission, such a direction is plainly unlawful and beyond his powers—

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

In that case, the right hon. Gentleman ought to vote against the Motion.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

We have not had any information about this yet and I want it before the debate is concluded. Equally, if the Minister gives a direction which is not actuated by a genuine belief that he is serving the general public interest as distinct from a purely partisan party interest, he is going outside the powers given to him by the Act and is doing something which is plainly unlawful.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

If the right hon. Gentleman holds that view, would it not be quite simple for him to get some of his friends of approved status to get an injunction in the High Court?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

That is an extraordinary doctrine from the hon. Member, who likes to be a Parliamentarian. Here I am raising a perfectly legitimate Parliamentary point, and he says keep quiet, do not raise it in the House of Commons, go into the courts of law.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

The hon. Member is seeking to deny the rights of Parliament, and to refer the matter to the courts.

Photo of Mr Richard Harris Mr Richard Harris , Heston and Isleworth

It is the courts that interpret the law.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

It is no use the hon. Member saying that the courts interpret the law. Of course they do. But if the Opposition have, in their opinion, reason to believe that the Government have acted ultra vires the law we not only have the right but the duty to challenge them in the House of Commons, and that is what we are doing this afternoon.

I wish to ask the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport this direct and pertinent question. Did the Minister, or did he not, consult, as the Section requires, the Transport Commission before he made his direction, and if he did when did he do so, and will he produce any correspondence between the Minister and the Commission? [Interruption.] There will be an opportunity for the Parliamentary Secretary to reply. I am sure he will answer what is a perfectly straight and clear question with a straight and clear reply one way or the other.

To be frank, we find it difficult to believe that any such consultation did take place. We find it equally difficult to believe that if it took place the Transport Commission concurred with the Minister's proposal to give the general direction that we are discussing. I agree at once that merely because the Transport Commission disagrees does not prevent the Minister from giving directions, and ought not to do so. But the House and the general public are entitled to know the contents of any document containing the Transport Commission's views and what was said at any interview between the Minister of Transport and the Commission.

Secondly, I ask this question not of the Prime Minister but of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. Will he sincerely assure the House, and through the House the general public, that the Minister conscientiously put aside purely party considerations and, in deciding whether or not to make this direction, brought his mind to bear solely on the general question of the public good? If he gives us this assurance we must, of course, accept it—

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

Yes, we have. We think there may have been some confusion between the public interest and the interests of the Conservative Party, and we are inclined to think that the two things are not only not necessarily consistent but are probably inconsistent.

If the Parliamentary Secretary gives us this assurance we must, as I say, accept it, but we would at the same time point out that it is indeed a remarkable coincidence that although the findings of the Tribunal must have been in the hands of the Government for some time, during which the Minister of Transport took no action, suddenly, when the results of the county council elections became known, the Minister proceeded to make this direction knowing, as he must have done, that this was just at the very time when public indignation was beginning to grow against the Tory Party for its consistent failure to live up to its Election undertakings.

What was said by the Home Secretary, by the Prime Minister and, I think, in the No. 10 statement? I was surprised that this matter was dealt with from No. 10 and not from the Ministry of Transport. There are times when it is right that No. 10 should issue statements, but this is an indication of the tendency of the Prime Minister to take over and usurp the functions of Departmental Ministers.

As was admitted by the Home Secretary, the substance of the Tribunal decision was known in January—he did not mention that date, but that is the case—and it was published in the Press. However, the Minister of Transport was represented at the proceedings of the Tribunal by, at any rate, an officer with a watching brief. Therefore, the Minister was fully informed all along, so that the story that the Government could not do anything about London because they only had four days' notice is really untrue and cannot be substantiated.

Therefore, the Government let the London fares decision go on. Indeed, this Government, both on fares and prices, including food prices, almost seemed to get a bit of enjoyment in their early months out of charges and prices going up, as if in a way they were indicating to the people, "We will show you what the economic facts of life are."

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

After six years of Socialist rule.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

In our time, we did our best and achieved considerable success in keeping a check on the rising cost of living—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, we did. Also, if there had been a Conservative Government in those six years the cost of living would have gone up very much more.

We certainly never handled these matters in a spirit of pleasure or of spitefulness at the public expense, as I think the Government did during their early months. They were not worried about London fares going up until the county council elections took place. Then they got worried and at that point, seeing the municipal elections coming along in May, the Government then intervened with a standstill on the rise of fares in the provincial, Scottish and Welsh areas.

So, I must tell the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that we on this side of the House believe that the true explanation of these proceedings was that the Prime Minister himself brusquely over-rode the Minister of Transport and ordered him, with or without a Cabinet decision—we do not know—to issue a direction which the Minister of Transport would never have dreamed of issuing on his own responsibility or in the exercise of his own honest judgment or without proper consultation with the Commission.

If this is the real explanation, if, in other words, the Minister of Transport failed to have those consultations with the Commission, or gave this direction for improper political reasons, there cannot be the slightest doubt that he was acting illegally, and that what he has done is not in those circumstances authorised by Section 4 of the Transport Act.

I turn to what the Minister of Transport himself said. We have had some ingenious explanations from the Home Secretary this afternoon. On 10th March there were on the Order Paper a whole series of Questions about London fares. They came from more than one part of the House, and we had the usual point of order from the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), in respect of which I am not entirely without sympathy as regards his original adventure or misadventure. The concluding answer was: I must make it clear, that under the Transport Act, 1947, no action other than reference to the Consultative Committee is open to me."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1021.] I do not know whether the Home Secretary can say whether that is based on the view, which I can follow, that a direction in respect of the London Transport area would not be a general direction, and that, therefore, the Minister could not give that direction because it would not be general, because it would be confined to a geographical area. If not, on what was it based?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I want at once to inform the right hon. Gentleman that it was not based on that view. At that time my hon. Friend was considering the normal procedure laid down by the Act. He was not considering the overriding procedure laid down by Sections 4 and 85.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

That leaves me somewhat mystified, because the statement of the Minister was quite categorical. He said: I must make it clear that under the Transport Act, 1947, no action other than reference to the Consultative Committee is open to me. It is now argued that other action was open to him under Section 4. Therefore, I am afraid that the right hon. and learned Gentleman completely falls down on that point.

But there was another Question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder), who has been active in this matter. On 17th March he asked the Minister of Transport: whether, in view of the hardship caused by the repeated rise in transport fares over recent years, he will make a statement as to the directions he will issue under Section 4 of the Transport Act, 1947, to the British Transport Commission to ensure that this burden is evenly shared in all sections of the country. That undoubtedly was a proposal for a general direction and it was specifically the idea that it should be issued under Section 4. The reply of the Minister was: The Passenger Charges Scheme, 1952, now governs the fares charged by the Commission in the London area and as from 1st May, will govern the fares charged by them outside this area. The scheme was confirmed by the Transport Tribunal after a public inquiry. This is the procedure laid down in the Transport Act and I am advised it would not be proper for me to issue directions such as those to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1919.] I am completely mystified as to why something that would not be proper on the part of the Minister of Transport on 17th March becomes proper in a statement issued from 10, Downing Street, later on, after the Government had had the preliminary samples of the county council election results. There is no explanation of this, other than a political explanation. I say that the Government in discharging what are quasi-judicial functions in this matter, have acted as partisans and shown they are not fitted for the responsibilities of office. I say in all sincerity that in the discharge of quasi-judicial functions it is profoundly important that the executive are animated by a quasi-judicial spirit—

Photo of Captain Robert Ryder Captain Robert Ryder , Merton and Morden

After the views just expressed by the right hon. Gentleman can he explain why it is his intention not to vote against the Government Motion?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Question he put to the Minister of Transport on 17th March was far more relevant than the interruption he has now made.

I say in all sincerity that that is one of the greatest tests of public spirit, not only on the part of Ministers, but on the part of local authorities—and some of us in local authority work whether on public control committees, theatre and musical hall licensing, and so on, have had to exercise quasi-judicial powers. Directly one departs from the spirit of quasi-judicial administration one undermines the law, and, I would say, the decencies of public administration.

Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , South Dorset

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House precisely what is quasi-judicial about Section 4? He knows perfectly well—he put it in some Nationalisation Acts—that it is an administrative and political Section in each Act.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

No, it refers to the "national interest." They are the material governing words and for the noble Lord to imply that taking into account party political interest is proper surprises me very much.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I think there is a real difference between us on this point. I understand that a quasi-judicial function is a function where a Minister has to decide something between two parties. For example, he has to decide an appeal from a licensing authority under the Act. I quote that because the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for certain stages of it. That is judicial in the sense that he has to decide an appeal. It is quasi-judicial, because he is entitled to take a wider consideration in his ministerial position. This is not judicial at all. It has no judicial quality. It has a requirement, as has every other ministerial Act, that it must be done in good faith, but that is quite a different matter.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

I do not quarrel with the definition given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He says that to be quasi-judicial a thing has to be a contest between parties. This is a contest between parties. There is the Transport Commission and its revenue, which, by the way, the Minister has to take into consideration right through the Act, and so does the Commission and the Tribunal. There is the public, a very important element. They have to be taken into account, I quite agree. Then there are, potentially, the work-people employed, who have to be taken into account; because if Ministers play about with the finances of the undertaking to an undue extent it will be impossible for the undertaking to be a good employer. Therefore, all these are elements which have to be taken into account.

I admit I could not stand up to cross-examination on the exact meaning of "quasi-judicial," but I think I am near enough. We have to take into account other parties to the argument, and the duty of the Minister is to be animated by the national interest, and by a spirit of fairness between the parties to the argument. I do not think that the Government have been so animated. I think they have been animated by panic after the county council elections. I can understand that although I do not sympathise with it, because one should not get into a panic about elections.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

What did the party opposite do at the General Election?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

We never got into a panic at the last General Election, and we certainly did not get into a panic at the last county council elections.

Compare the way in which the Government have been going on with the line taken by two members of the present Cabinet when the Bill was before Parliament. I start with the noble Lord the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In the House of Lords he moved, with success, the proviso which was to be inserted at the end of subsection 1 of this very Section 4, as follows: Provided that the Minister shall not give to the Commission a direction in relation to any matter the effect of which, taking one year with another, will be or will be likely to be, that the revenue of the Commission will be less than sufficient for the meeting of charges properly chargeable to revenue, unless the Minister shall at the time of the giving of such direction notify the Commission that it is given in the interests of national security. That was the Amendment, and it was carried in their Lordships' House.

But the noble Lord, Viscount Swinton, in moving it said this. I am sorry to have to quote this at length but it is so relevant and material to the present discussion that I think we need some explanation as to why the noble Lord should believe this, and be now a member of a Cabinet which has done something else. He said: It may also be said that it is the duty of the Commission to frame schemes of charges which will he submitted to the Transport Tribunal in order that they may do the difficult task of combining proper transport facilities with such charges as shall enable them to carry on paying their way. But unless a provision of this kind is put in, it would be possible for the Minister to make—and indeed he may be pressed to give to the Commission—directions which may completely override a scheme which the Commission had presented to the Transport Tribunal, and which the Transport Tribunal had approved. This is what will happen: with great care a scheme of charges has been framed; everybody has been hard before the Tribunal; the matter has been thrashed out; and the Tribunal has given its judgment and fixed a scale of charges. The Minister"— the noble Viscount forgot the Prime Ministerthen comes and gives a direction which is inconsistent with the scheme which the Tribunal has made. This will throw the whole of the findings of the Commission out of order."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Lords), 10th June, 1947; Vol. 148, c. 390.] There could not be a more exact description of what has happened under this Government. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has yet had time to receive the resignation of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy, but this is the second noble Lord who ought to have resigned in view of his pre-Election promises. I know Viscount Swinton; I did battle with him on the London Transport Bill when he conducted a similar battle against what he thought was undue ministerial interference in a milder Bill than the Transport Bill of 1947. I think the noble Lord was in a difficulty because he specifically condemned the thing that has happened. The terms he then used were extraordinarily prophetic, because they are an exact description of what has happened thereafter.

But the noble Lord was not the only one. The Home Secretary knows exactly what is coming. He has no doubt refreshed his mind as to what he said, and, being a good lawyer, like my right hon. and learned Friend, he could probably almost quote it by heart whereas I cannot and must read it. There was a Motion moved in this House by my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Transport to disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment—a thing not exactly unknown in that Parliament—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite was defending their Lordships' Amendment, and by implication was, I suppose, in agreement with Viscount Swinton's speech. But he made his own speech. He had moved this Amendment upstairs in Standing Committee B. On 23rd July, 1947, we discussed the Report stage on the Floor of the House and the Question was whether the House disagreed with the Lords in the said Amendment. Speaking then about my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) the right hon. and learned Gentleman said: The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that there are three difficulties about which we are alarmed, and from which we are trying to protect the country. The first is an interference by the Minister—I am not referring to the right hon. Gentleman but to the person who holds the office of Minister of Transport for the moment—with charging schemes that have gone up through the process from the Commission to the tribunal and are being considered by the tribunal. If there is then an interference with the charging schemes, the whole of that work may be thrown up."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1947; Vol. 440, c. 1251.] I ask whether in the case of the noble Lord he agreed with the direction in the Cabinet. Presumably, he did not if he did not resign. I do not need to ask that about the Home Secretary. He agreed with the direction in the Cabinet just as he agreed with the very opposite in his argument in the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows from the word go that he is guilty. The Prime Minister sits there enjoying himself, I admit that in his case he does not always know when he is guilty. He has had such a varied and evolutionary political life that guilt is not part of his make-up. But, as I say, the Home Secretary knows that he is guilty. He knows that he said one thing when this Bill was before the House and that now he comes here with all the cheek and all the political aggressiveness in the world to defend an action by his Government which is in flat contradiction to what he urged earlier.

I want to know whether the Commission were consulted and whether the Government can put their hands on their hearts and say that they acted in the national interest and that the county council elections and the coming municipal elections did not occur to them at all. I should also like to ask them something else. They have some schemes on foot for, as they call it, the reorganisation of transport. I would prefer to call it the disorganisation of transport, and I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary, when he comes to reply, whether the Government have consulted the Commission about their schemes for the reorganisation of transport.

In these circumstances, I say that the Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend and myself and others is a sound, truthful, rational Amendment worthy of the support of the House. We have witnessed vacillation and lack of co-ordination between Ministers. It is not as though they were lacking in co-ordinating Ministers. We have, first of all, the Minister of Transport whose business it is to co-ordinate transport and not to disco-ordinate it. But, not content with that, the Prime Minister appointed a noble Lord under the heavy sounding title of Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power. He was there to co-ordinate these Ministers in case anything went wrong. Finally, we have the Prime Minister co-ordinating anybody at any moment, or dictating to them and ordering them about, that, probably, being one of his most favourite forms of co-ordination.

We are as much concerned in increased fares as anybody. Certainly, London Labour Members of Parliament, and, indeed, London Members of Parliament generally, have reason to be concerned, because under the decision of the Government London has been left to carry the increased fares whereas the provinces, Scotland, and Wales have been specially protected for the time being. I am not quarrelling with Scotland, Wales and the provinces—I would not do that at all; good luck to them—but I am sure they will agree with me that if it had been the other way round they would have objected. Therefore, London Members of Parliament are entitled to take the view that it is pretty thick that London should have been picked out quite needlessly in this matter.

The Government say that they are going to do something about London. We shall see; I do not see what they can do within the law. It may be that they will have to bring in a Bill about it, and, of course, we would have every sympathy with our provincial, Scottish and Welsh fellow citizens if they were unfairly treated in this way. Fares have a direct and noticeable effect on the cost of living, and we are much concerned, perhaps more concerned, than most people that the Transport Commission and the Transport Executives should be efficient and economical, because we want public ownership to be successful and for people to know that it is successful. But we do not want these things to be achieved at the expense of the workpeople employed, who also have a right to be considered.

As I have said, we dislike profoundly the methods employed, and we expect a considered reply. I do not want the House to degenerate into a situation where the fares and charges of publicly-owned industries are subject to a political Dutch auction, where Members are competing with each other to be able to go to their constituents and say, "I got this, that and the other for you." With respect, I do not believe that this great House of Commons is the appropriate body to deal like that with detailed charges of this sort. If it tries to settle detailed charges of this sort the next thing it will be driven to do is to try to settle the details of the wages and salaries of the people employed. That will not do.

There has been a reckless political campaign against the publicly-owned industries. There have been unfair and damaging attacks on them, and it is not as if fare increases are confined to the publicly-owned Transport Commission undertakings. There have been a whole series of increases of road fares in private undertakings. I daresay that they will be given during our debate today. There have also been a whole series of increases in municipal undertakings. Even the Ulster Transport Authority has had to increase its fares, and it is run under a Unionist Government.

The Consultative Committee to which the matter was referred, say on page 16 of their Report—and this should be said in fairness to the Commission—that the increase in fares, whether in London, the provinces or elsewhere, is less than the general increase in prices and charges for other industries, including the privately-owned industries. They have added this word of criticism of the Commission, and I have some sympathy with it, namely, that the Commission did not adequately discharge their public relations duties in making explanations about these changes.

I think the Commission acted from the best of motives. They took the view that as this Tribunal was a judicial body they should not explain themselves to the public, but the Consultative Committee were of opinion that they were wrong in their view. I, too, think that they were wrong. It is very important that these publicly-owned industries, especially where they have a monopoly, should never forget that they have a great duty to explain their work to the public as they go along, and especially difficult matters of this kind.

The Government have not indicated how the deficit is to be made up. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said it was over £2 million. I would have thought that if London were added it would be materially greater than £2 million.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

Is it £2½ million altogether or £2½ million plus London?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

It is £2½ million altogether.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

It is not for this Government to sneeze at £2½ million. We ought to have a considered report as to how the deficit is to be made up. We are very glad that the deficit is decreasing. Naturally, I wish the publicly-owned industries to pay their way and even to make a profit that can help them in the future, but the last and silliest thing to do with this great undertaking, which will prevent it paying its way, is to restore the cut-throat competition between road and rail through the de-nationalisation of road transport or road passenger traffic. That is madness from the public point of view.

Let me tell the Government that any such policy—and we recognise that what Parliament decides in the end must be accepted for the time being—will undoubtedly be bitterly resented by many workers in this great industry who, hitherto, have been the victims of this kind of thing. "Modern Transport," a non-party weekly trade paper, in its leader on 26th April, regretted that the Government are going backwards in this matter. Therefore, if the Government pursue that course; as they say they will, they are accentuating the difficulties of the British Transport Commission and the Executives.

But they have not waited for that. They have increased petrol taxation, which has added to the cost of the Commission. I gather that for the London Transport Executive the cost of fuel oil is now 4½d. a car mile against a 1¼d. in 1938–39 and that has got to be met. Governments are beginning to look at petrol as if it were whiskey or some other luxury. Its heavy taxation adds a great burden to our transport charges. Moreover, the Budget itself, by increases in prices consequent upon the new policy about food, is an incentive to the workers in this as in other industries to make claims for additional wages. Consequently, the Government seem to be doing everything they can to make it more difficult for the Commission to pay its way.

This business of taking road transport out of the collective organisation is absolutely wrong, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman then tells us that the Government are going to make it pay. The theory must be that the railways are highly profitable. I do not know that they are, but I know that private enterprise used to advocate this sort of co-ordination in principle. What did the late Lord Ashfield, that great transport man—

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

I do not see the relevance of the noble Lord's interjection. I do not know what Lord Ashfield's politics were. He was a great transport man and he spent the greater part of his life trying to co-ordinate and integrate the London Transport system both road and rail, whether it was road by bus, tramway or trolleybus, or the underground railways. The London Passenger Transport Act, which I had the honour to introduce, was the logical conclusion to Lord Ashfield's labours.

What were the railway companies doing before the war? They were campaigning for a "square deal," to get some help for the railways out of road transport in some way or another, and if nationalisation had not come about the railways by now would have been in a very bad way. A Conservative Government would have had to pay a subsidy or in other ways would have had to help them. I am not asking for general subsidies for our transport undertakings. I realise that is dangerous for it may make the managers careless in that if there is any trouble all they may think they have to do is to dip their hands into the public purse. I do not advocate it.

I think there is a case for a financial inquiry and possibly a wider inquiry of the B.B.C. kind, which would include a number of Members of Parliament from both sides of the House. There is a great deal to be said for going into the question of efficiency in the industry, the question of overheads, administration, costs, managerial charges and fares. If the private enterprise railways had continued, it is highly probable that by now they would have been in such a bad way financially that they would have been paying little or no dividends at all. I certainly do not see how the L.N.E.R. could have paid a dividend and I very much doubt if the L.M.S. could have done so. It is conceivable that the Great Western and the Southern could have come through with modest dividends.

We have compensated the former shareholders under our Act. We did it as fairly as we could, and if it be the case that the railways under private ownership could not have paid in dividend the equivalent of what we are paying by way of compensation under the 1947 Act, then I say that there is a case for investigation—I go no further because I do not want to commit myself or the Opposition—as to whether a part of the capital charges in respect of the railways ought not to be remitted.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

That is a matter for the Government to consider, but it probably would have to be at the expense of public funds, for there is an element of equity to the Commission now in this respect as there was an element of equity to the private shareholders before.

But there is another point. The railways relieve the public highways of a great deal of cost. If the railways did not carry the heavy traffic they do carry, especially commercial traffic, that traffic would have to go on public highways. It would cost us a lot of money to provide highways for that traffic, apart from causing a lot of public inconvenience. I put it up as an idea without committing myself and my right hon. Friends, that there is a case for considering whether there should not be a kind of Road Fund grant towards capital charges and the maintenance of railway permanent way. These things were being convassed before public ownership and it may be right that they should be considered again.

There is a third point—though it may not be material in financial significance—that the Commission may wish to close a branch railway line and the Government say that there are strategic reasons for its not being closed. If that happens there is a case for the Government compensating the Commission, but only if the Commission can show on commercal grounds that they would have closed it down and the Government say that on strategic grounds something ought to be done about it.

I put these things forward because they are specific, limited and not by way of general subsidy. I confess that I do not like the idea of a general subsidy to publicly-owned industries because it can make everybody careless, and I want the management to be on the spot all the time because I am very anxious that the management should be efficient. The Transport Act, 1947, introduced and worked for so hard by the Socialist Minister of Transport my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) was right in general. But we are ready to consider changes which experience and the public interest show to be desirable. Any Socialist who contended that merely because a Socialist Government passed a Socialist Act it was perfect and always would be perfect would be unreasonable, and none of us should take that view. We are ready, of course, to consider modifications in the public interest; but I am bound to say that there is not much in what is indicated by the Government that would be of that order.

We believe that co-ordination and pooling of resources is right. We are inclined to think that, if anything, the Transport Act, 1947, ought to have gone further in the direction of co-ordinating road commercial transport. But we were reasonable people in that Government and we sometimes made concessions to opponents. We believe that this big comprehensive, co-ordinated transport system is the best way of securing an efficient transport, carrying anything or anybody to and from anywhere at the lowest possible price.

It is because of what we think of the action of the Government in this matter and the policy of the Government, indicated in political speeches and in the speech from the Throne, because we believe the Government have been jumping about before thinking and have been animated by partisan instead of social and national considerations that we are moving this Amendment and asking the House to give it their support.

5.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I wish that when the Government of New Zealand were gracious enough to present the two Boxes which stand on the Table they had put a clock on each in order that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches should realise what infernally long speeches they make. The time has come when occupants of the Front Benches might give a little more consideration to providing a greater opportunity for those who sit in other parts of the House.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

The hon. Member should make some allowance for the fact that both the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary and myself had to suffer a great deal of interruption, though I am not complaining about that.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary suffered five times as much as did the right hon. Gentleman. When I raised with him the issue whether the action of the Government was legal or not, I suggested that the proper place to find that out was in a court of justice, but the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), slipped away from that issue. No resolution of this House determines what is the law. An Act of Parliament does. If it is the case that the right hon. Gentleman thinks the Government have acted improperly, the courts alone are the place to test the point. But the right hon. Gentleman turned away from that point because he knew that what he was raising was completely false.

The right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished Member of Parliament and a member of a great political party which declared that the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange should be controlled democratically. But he is now saying that nationalisation must be without democracy and that it would be absolutely monstrous if Parliament decided these things. Who is to decide? This Commission has no annual meeting and no shareholders. The members of the Commission do not come up for annual election and they are under no control of any kind whatsoever.

In other words, the Socialist Party have completely abandoned their concept of democracy in relation to economic matters. They stand for the nationalisation of everything. And it will be no use having a Parliament when everything is nationalised because Parliament will have nothing to do. That is exactly what has happened in Russia, and at the end of their street is the Russian system. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I know hon. Members do not like it.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

Will the hon. Member bear in mind that, according to the best authority I can quote as far as he is concerned, namely, the Prime Minister, there are sufficient powers in the 1947 Act to protect the public?

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I wish the hon. and gallant Member, the learned barrister from Brixton, would listen occasionally to somebody else's argument. I was describing what the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South has said—that it was absolutely monstrous that Parliament should decide these things. The hon. and gallant Member is nearly always wrong when he interrupts. That is why he is the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , The Wrekin

Is the hon. Member seriously suggesting that every proposed change of fares should be brought for decision on the Floor of the House?

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I am pointing out what the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South has said—that it would be quite wrong for Parliament to have control of these matters—and I am saying that if that were pushed to its logical conclusion and everything were nationalised, it would be no use having a Parliament at all. The right hon. Gentleman also said something about the compensation that has been paid to shareholders. I have never held any railway shares and so I am not in the picture, but the Prime Minister was a little nervous and asked the right hon. Gentleman at whose expense. I read speeches by miners' leaders and railwaymen's leaders who say these interest charges are the cause of the trouble.

But that is a most dangerous game to play. It is only last weekend that the British Electricity Authority asked the public to provide £150 million of new money. If there is any kind of threat that these people who are asked to subscribe may in future be deprived of what they pay, there will be no money for nationalisation. Nobody will be stupid enough to subscribe a loan which will be repudiated.

I take particular interest in this question of fares because my constituents are very adversely affected. I tried to raise the issue on 3rd March, long before the county council elections. Mr. Speaker's Ruling on that occasion, when he based himself on what had been ruled in the last two Parliaments, and with the complete and enthusiastic support of the right hon. Gentleman—because we all know that he played a very substantial part in restricting the debate in respect of nationalised industry—

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that I had some part in answering questions, but, as a matter of fact, I was always in favour of the widest debate and I never used my influence to restrict the debate on the Second Reading of the Transport Bill.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

The right hon. Gentleman did not do anything to help to expand it. The right hon. Gentleman was very negligent on that occasion; he did not do his best to support democracy. I chanced my arm and I started to read a letter from one of my constituents explaining the deplorable effect of these changes. I only got half-way through when Mr. Deputy-Speaker called me to order; I was able to get half-way through the letter because I read it quickly.

The London Passenger Transport Board, or the London Transport Executive as it is now called, is a very incompetent body. I was one of those who, in opposition to my own party, in 1933 opposed the London Transport Bill at all stages. The right hon. Gentleman was not in the House at that time, but I know he followed the debates and he said that Lord Ashfield was a great man. He was, but I told him that I thought his idea was a very bad one and that it was deplorable that he should seek to turn this organisation into a monopoly.

I was in some difficulty, because my own town council wanted the Bill to go through since they were losing £20,000 a year on their trams. I took no notice of the town council; I opposed the Bill in the interests of the travelling public. We have got a dull, incompetent body. [Interruption.] Certainly. Hon. Members know that if they try to get an extended service for their constituents they are told, "It is no good." This body has no enterprise; it is dull and unimaginative, and it ought to be replaced.

Photo of Mr John Hynd Mr John Hynd , Sheffield, Attercliffe

The hon. Gentleman has challenged us to try to get extensions under the London Transport Executive. Does he remember the trouble there was when attempts were made to get an extension of the Piccadilly Line under private enterprise, and how it was only finally obtained after a direct subsidy?

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

I do not remember the direct subsidy of the Piccadilly Line. It may have come at a time when, in order to stimulate employment, money was raised on rather favourable terms. But before the Act of 1924, and the further Act of 1930, if I had wanted to run a bus in London I could have done so. When the Socialist Party passed the legislation which made it impossible for anybody to get a licence without permission, then the big boys bought up the independent operators and got a monopoly even before the Act of 1933 was passed. I sometimes try to get an additional service for Croydon, but I am told that it will not pay. I then ask whether they have any objection to somebody starting a service, and they say "Oh yes, we could not possibly tolerate that." They are monopoly-minded, they are incompetent and they are much more extravagant in operation than the provincial operators.

I have to declare a minor interest. I am a director of an investment trust which owns a very large shareholding in a Midland bus company, although I take no part in the operation of the bus company. The bulk of the provincial bus companies did not raise their fares at all as compared with 1939 until 18 months ago. The London Transport Executive raised their fares five or six years before private enterprise, and in many cases before municipal enterprise, outside London, raised theirs. Therefore, I say it is an incompetent monopoly and we should do something about it.

I find that people in the outlying part of my constituency which used to be in Surrey, where there is a new housing estate—my constituency geographically is small—have to pay 11d. to get into the centre of the town. It is nearly 3d. a mile. It is a monstrous charge, and although I know there are technical and legal difficulties about the fares already in operation, I hope that the Minister will be able to do something about this.

I observe with great interest that the Financial and General Purposes Committee of the Transport and General Workers' Union are in favour of the increased fares. I am not surprised. They are getting the boodle. Let us be frank about it. They are the profiteers in respect of transport. The general public do not relate costs to prices. They say, "How splendid it is that the fellows working on the buses and the tubes are getting a rise in pay."

Photo of Mr George Oliver Mr George Oliver , Ilkeston

Do they fix the fares?

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

They do not fix the fares, but when they demand an increase in pay they push up the fares. People seem to overlook that when there is a demand for an increase in wages, there is the cost of operation to consider. I am not against trade unions, but let us be frank about this. If somebody asks for an increase in pay, it sends up the price of the commodity. There is no particular merit in an employers' trade union or a workers' trade union. They are organisations fighting for their self-interest. I do not take the view of one distinguished trade unionist, now dead, who maintained that when a trade union made an agreement, that agreement was not to be criticised at all.

I hope that as a result of today's debate and the action taken by Her Majesty's Government, the whole organisation of London transport will be seriously examined. I think it is deplorably bad today. The consideration on the part of the staff is less than it was. I use buses to a certain extent, and if I approach a bus which is about to start I run into the roadway in order that the driver may see me and I give a signal, but it makes no difference. He drives on. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] It is no use saying "Rubbish." I am describing my own experience of what happens frequently at the bottom of Victoria Street. I join with the right hon. Gentleman in his proposal that there should be a really exhaustive inquiry into the way in which this terrible monopoly is now being run.

5.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

So far we have had a very interesting debate on the subject of fares, but I think it is about time the House looked a little more deeply into the efficiency of our transport system. I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) suggested, towards the end of his speech, that industrial consultants and similar people should be taken into conference.

I wonder how many hon. Members have really thought about the old-fashioned nature of the ordinary locomotive train. Nothing really has happened since George Stephenson constructed his locomotive some 100-odd years ago. Here we have a locomotive dragging a lot of trucks and carriages. Has any hon. Member got any idea of the inefficiency of burning coal in a railway locomotive? The efficiency is from seven to 10 per cent., and electric trains, on the same basis, are no more efficient. Diesel engines are three or four times as efficient as the ordinary locomotive.

Let us take the question of the ordinary railway carriage. They are very heavy, and the reason is that they have steel wheels running on steel rails, which is a very idiotic kind of idea. It is because the grip by the steel wheel on the steel rail can only be achieved by the great weight of the carriage that one has an extra lack of efficiency in the running of an ordinary train. I suggest that it is quite feasible—and I have been advised by highly qualified people—to have rubber tyres. I think that has been done in France. One could also use reinforced concrete rails. That would give a grip which can only be achieved so far as steel wheels and steel rails are concerned by having a good deal heavier railway carriage.

Photo of Mr Percy Collick Mr Percy Collick , Birkenhead

Is my hon. Friend aware that reinforced concrete sleepers have been used for donkey's years in this country? [HON. MEMBERS: "Rails."] I am sorry. I thought the hon. Member said sleepers. With regard to the institution of rubber wheels, will he tell us what would be the length of the train in such conditions?

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

I do not think that matters. I am dealing with one point at a time. I was not talking about concrete sleepers; I was talking about reinforced concrete rails, which can be used if one has ordinary rubber-tyred wheels instead of steel wheels on steel rails. I have no idea what would be the length of the train. That has nothing to do with it. It may be that it would be the normal length, or shorter or longer. What I should like to see would be Diesel trains, which can be split up to deal with the load to be taken at any particular time.

We also have three restaurant cars on ordinary trains of about 14 carriages. I suggest that that is a sheer waste of a great deal of rolling stock, and the question of weight again applies. I suggest that British Railways look into the way in which deep frozen food is carried for air travellers. I think they should adopt some principle of that kind and so get rid of two, or even all three, of the restaurant cars. They could have little compartments at the end of every other carriage which could deal with the serving of food very comfortably and tastefully and, I am sure, to the delight of the ordinary passenger.

Another thing which is extraordinarily inefficient is the exits at the main line termini. One often wonders whether railways think that they exist for us or we for them. We must get some sense into this business of what I may describe as consumer relationships. A lot more must be done for the benefit of passengers. Overcrowded trains are accepted now as the order of the day. There is also the question of unpunctuality, which is a matter of which we all know only too well. My constituency is less than 100 miles from London; I never get there punctually, and when I get into the train at Nuneaton it is always late, except for the last two or three weeks, which have been exceptional.

Then there is the question of signalling. If we had an efficient electric signalling system we could run more trains, we could check up on them much better, and we could run them punctually. If one has to move a lever, it is very heavy work. I have tried to pull one myself, and I know that it is very hard work. In these days of radar and wireless we can still only warn the driver of an engine by explosive fog signals. These are terribly out of date. All these are matters which should be gone into by a committee. I am pleased to see that the Parliamentary Secretary is in his place. I congratulate him on his position. I suggest to him that these things are very essential.

With regard to goods trains, I suggest that here we have more effeteness than can be imagined. The ordinary goods truck has no brake, except one which can be operated when it is stationary to prevent it from running away. Therefore, one has a situation in which an engine is pulling 30 or 40 trucks which are unbrakable. I have forgotten the exact term. It is something like "line braking." The trains can only toddle along at a few miles an hour. That makes the sending of goods by rail very unattractive and very slow, and the goods trains get in the way of other trains which could otherwise go faster.

There is also complete inefficiency so far as rolling stock is concerned. Mr. John Elliot, the Chairman of the Railway Executive, made a speech on Saturday, presumably at Cambridge, in which he said that there was to be a certain amount of further decentralisation. He also said that we should not be able to build any more railway carriages this year, and that therefore there will be a lot of old carriages.

As ordinary railway carriages have a braking system, I suggest that we should rip off the tops of them and convert them into ordinary square-based chassis slightly longer than the ordinary truck. It is essential that a great deal more use should be made of the movable containers into which one sometimes sees goods being put. They are large containers, about as big as a truck, and they are taken up by a crane, put on to a British Road Services lorry and taken to a goods station or to the receivers or vice versa.

The amount of time that is wasted in marshalling goods trains is quite fantastic. There may be a couple of goods trucks left at Ilford. They remain there for a very long time. They cannot be hitched to the ordinary passenger train because it is not suitable. They are taken to marshalling yards and there they are shunted up and made into goods trains. If we increased the number of these mobile containers—we have all seen them in stations if we have kept our eyes open—what an easy thing it would be to make them so that they could be removed from the trucks, which could consist of old railway carriage chassis which would be brakable. They would then be able to travel very much faster and the shunting requirements would be very much reduced. If that were done, the other trains would be faster and we could reach a reasonable basis on this question of fares. The public are paying very large fares because of the very great deal of inefficiency.

Another thing that is a most fantastic waste is the ordinary brake on the wheel of a railway carriage. It operates on the same principle as that of a farm cart. I am perfectly certain that it must be very much out of date. The braking system on the internal combustion engine for motor cars is very much better. I believe there is a fantastic waste of metal on the underground system through the use of these brake blocks on iron or steel rims. I think they need renewing almost every day.

If one has rubber-tyred wheels one can save a great deal of discomfort. The wheels can also be properly braked. The steel rails can be replaced by concrete, so providing a great deal more steel for other uses. Steel is very short and it could be used for very much better things.

I seem to have remembered a good deal of my speech without any reference to my notes, which is something I rather believe in.

I am aware of the great capital investment which would be necessary, but I am also aware, as is every other hon. Member, of the tremendous importance to the nation in the economic crisis, and to our ordinary economic life, of an efficient and cheap transport system. Therefore, although perhaps what I have suggested cannot be done immediately, inquiries should be made along the lines I have suggested and a start made within the next year or so.

I feel certain that there must be a great deal more de-centralisation of authority. After all, there is a maximum amount to which a man can devote his attention. There should be more devolution and decentralisation of authority. For instance, a stationmaster at Liphook should have authority to lay on extra trains if there is a football match at Portsmouth. It must not be necessary for him to refer everything to London. Furthermore, he must be paid properly. It is not necessary to have the super-men, the super-brains, overpaid; distribute the responsibility and increase the standard of life of the people who are to accept the responsibility. Then, I believe, there will be a very great improvement in the whole system.

Finally, I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether he will set up, or get British Railways to set up, a small committee consisting of, say, an industrial consultant, a chartered accountant and a statistician. In view of experience with the railways, both with the men and with the managers, I suggest that they are very conservative indeed and that it would not be a bad thing if there were no railwaymen on this inquiry. They are very prejudiced; their history is quite well known. My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) may reply to these comments later, but I think many hon. Members will agree with what I say. I sometimes think that the non-expert in any matter might, with advice, reach a better conclusion than the expert, because he can see the wood for the trees.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider setting up this small committee so as to see whether, in a year's time, a report can be submitted to British Railways. Perhaps I am wrong in all the suggestions I have made, or in some of them, but obviously great improvements could be made. The whole conception of a locomotive drawing all these trucks with inefficient brakes, or with 7 per cent. efficiency in coal burning makes that clear. For every 1,000 tons of coal they burn they have to carry 930 tons with them, and they have to get rid of the waste cinders at the end. All this is sheer waste, and we shall not have the moral right to ask the public to pay any more in railway fares until we at least set up some inquiry on the lines I have suggested.

6.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Bevins Mr Reginald Bevins , Liverpool Toxteth

I should like to speak very briefly in support of the Motion, and I hope the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his rather technical recommendations for the improvement of our railway system. Let me say at the start that I thought the speech of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), was both interesting and witty; and in parts it was even informative. I learned a great deal from what he said, and the only question on which he failed to enlighten the House was the subject matter of the Motion.

Even now, I do not understand whether Her Majesty's Opposition approve of the suspension in the increases in fares outside London or whether they do not. At one moment the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, suggested that he himself, at least, did not approve of the suspension because he thought it was dictated by political and partisan motives; but almost in the next breath he made it clear that the Opposition were also themselves influenced by tactical considerations because, he said, they would not go into the Division Lobby against the Motion. I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman was perhaps rather more influenced by tactical considerations than is the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), the former Minister of Transport, who is now sitting on the back benches opposite.

May I take up one point upon which the right hon. Gentleman dwelt at some length—that is, the propriety of the Government's decision to suspend these provincial fare increases. He argued that not only had the Government done an improper thing, but that they had also taken an illegal action. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary very rightly said, Section 4 of the 1947 Act gives the Minister power to give the Commission directions of a general character in relation to matters which appear to him to affect the national interest. I should like to emphasise that whether the subject matter of a direction under Section 4 is in the national interest is entirely a matter for the Minister to decide, and it seems to me that hon. Gentlemen opposite can have little ground for complaint if a Conservative Minister decides to issue a direction when their own Front Bench were responsible, as a Government, in 1947, for the framing of Section 4.

After all, if the wording of this Section had been different, if the then Minister of Transport had gone to the length of defining what was meant by the national interest, then the hands of his successor in the existing Administration might have been tied; but, as I understand it, it has always been the view of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, that it would be wrong to fetter the judgment of a Government in a matter of this sort.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may remember that in 1948 the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, when speaking on the Monopolies Bill, and when the question of the definition of the words "public interest" arose, used these words: I think it has been accepted generally as a sound legal maxim that in this sphere, where opinions count, where judgment has to be introduced, it is somewhat unwise to interpose close definitions, because thereby one can limit the possibility of action precisely because it has been defined … we thought it right that the Commission must be the judge of the public interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April. 1948; Vol. 449, c. 2132.] I do not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman in that expression of opinion, but if he was right in relation to the Monopolies Bill in 1948, then I do not quite understand how he can be right today when he argues that the Minister was wrong to give this direction.

The right hon. Gentleman also argued, in the course of his speech, that the action of the Government in imposing this standstill on the fare increase, and the further possibility that road haulage would be de-nationalised, would have the effect of plunging our railway system even deeper than it is into the pit of insolvency. That is what it amounted to. I am bound to say that I do not accept that point of view. It is my belief that the action which the Government have taken, and the action which is now in process in relation to the road haulage industry, is likely to have the opposite effect. I believe it will have the effect of compelling those who are responsible for the railway system of our country to face the fact that we are living in 1952 and to make a serious attempt to adapt our railway system to modern social and industrial conditions.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

Where are they to get the money?

Photo of Mr Reginald Bevins Mr Reginald Bevins , Liverpool Toxteth

I will come to that in a moment. I want to give the House one or two figures about our railway system which are quite beyond dispute.

I think both sides of the House will agree that the most striking thing about our railway organisation is the almost consistent decline that has taken place since the end of the First World War in passenger traffic. It dropped between 1920 and 1950 by considerably more than 50 per cent. I concede at once that the Railway Executive during the last few years has made quite substantial economies in railway working. I concede as well that certain branch lines have been closed down, which is all to the good. However, I still say that those who are responsible for our railway organisation are still painfully slow to adapt themselves to what is obviously the modern role of our railway system.

Let me give one or two figures to the House. On the main line express routes in this country the cost per passenger mile at the present time is about a third of 1d. On the branch lines the cost per passenger mile is as high as 2s. 2d. That is to say, the cost of running branch line trains, having regard to the number of passengers carried, is something like 80 times as high as the cost of running main line expresses. By contrast, on the roads the cost per passenger mile over long distances is ½d. a mile; over short distances it averages out at something like 1d.

The conclusion from which neither side of the House can escape, which we are bound to draw from these figures, is that as a general proposition—obviously, there must be exceptions—the railways are in a position to compete with road services over the main line long distance express routes, but that they are in no position to compete with the roads over branch lines and in respect of local traffic.

It seems to me—I speak entirely as a layman without any experience as a working railwayman—that the railways today are making the worst of both worlds: still keeping in operation a widespread gossamer of local and branch lines throughout the country which do not pay today—and which I say never will pay—and at the same time finding themselves, because railway fares are standardised by distance, unable to compete with the coach companies over long distances.

My submission is that we have got to take an entirely new attitude towards the whole problem of the railways. I believe that we have got to be ruthless in our examination of the branch line system, and also that we have to give to the railways greater flexibility to charge fares for long distances that are more nearly related to costs than they are at the present time. I agree, of course, that that may very well involve the writing off of very large sums of capital assets on the railways, but it is my view that sooner or later that will be preferable to incurring losses over a period of another 50 years, which is the only alternative.

Let me add a word on the observations made by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, on the question of road transport. He seemed to deprecate the possibility that the Government might presently unscramble that industry and return it to private enterprise. I am bound to say that I look upon the attitude of the Opposition towards the denationalisation of road transport, and indeed to all our election pledges made at the last Election, as a very curious one. It appears that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite rather foster the impression that all the pledges of this party should have been redeemed within about six months—or, indeed, in some cases, in only about six weeks.

I remember the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) making great play in the debate on the Address with the non-fulfilment of this party's election pledges. When, on the other hand, Ministers come to the House and imply that the Government are going to do something about the de-nationalisation of road transport, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite become very angry indeed. They dislike the idea of hon. Members on this side of the House lecturing their naughty offspring, or even, as in this case, threatening to board them out in more responsible homes.

Whether the Opposition be right or whether they be wrong in the attitude they adopt towards this question of fare increases and de-nationalisation, one is bound to remember, on an occasion like this, that if they are wrong, if all that this Government have done during the last eight months, including the propositions being debated tonight, is wrong, then hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite have only got themselves to blame.

When all is said and done, the party opposite were successful beyond their wildest dreams at the General Election in 1945, and they managed to scramble home in 1950. Until October of last year they were never defeated on the Floor of this House, nor did they lose a by-election. The fact of the matter is that right hon. Gentlemen opposite abdicated their responsibilities in October last year; and, having walked out, they knew they would not quickly walk back. Therefore, I say that if all we are doing on this side of the House today is wrong, the responsibility is not solely ours, but that some of the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the party opposite.

6.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins) said he was not clear whether we were in favour of the standstill on these charges or not. I see no difficulty about that at all. Every Government has a very great responsibility to limit as far as they possibly can, the inflationary spiral of costs. Any responsible Minister ought to avoid as far as he can inequity in charges. My complaint and criticism today is not that the Government have taken action in this matter, but that the course which they have adopted is a dangerous and ill-considered precedent. It was not necessary. The issue could have been dealt with and the whole of the purpose of the Government met, in my view, by an entirely different procedure from that which they have followed.

The public will welcome action by the Government or anyone else if it relieves them of any specific charges; and the travelling public, of course, will support the action of the Government whether we consider the methods that they have adopted are right or not. If the Government, when we return to the Finance Bill, were to withdraw the 7d. a gallon increase in Petrol Duty, would anyone suggest that every motorist would not be delighted? If the Government restored the cut of £150 million in the food subsidies would any hon. Member suggest that every housewife would not be delighted? I suggest that the gravity of this issue is not whether a relief given to any particular class of the community is right or not. We are entitled to judge the Government's action on this group of charges in relation to their attitude on prices generally since they assumed responsibility.

I have had the privilege—and it was a privilege—of listening to, I think, almost every speech the Home Secretary has made on the question of transport in the post-war period, and I have never heard him less convincing than he was today. One could see that, as a capable lawyer, he was not convinced of the brief he had been handed. As my right hon. Friend was able to prove, and as I can emphasise, his speech was quite inconsistent with the considered views which he and many of his colleagues held in the past.

What I wish to emphasise today is that the provisions and practice of the administration of the Transport Act since it was passed in 1947 provided the Government with ample opportunity of giving expression to their views on concessional and sub-standard charges if they had been interested in the subject, if they had known the provisions and practice of the Act, and if they had taken the necessary action. The proceedings of the Tribunal are not a hurried or hasty affair. As was explained in previous statements, it was about a year ago when the Transport Commission first took steps to present its charges schemes for the consideration of the Tribunal.

I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that no one was more persistent than he in this House that the operation of the Tribunal machinery should be expedited; in every debate he exerted the utmost Parliamentary pressure upon myself to expedite that machinery. That procedure is dealt with in a separate and specific Section of the Transport Act. It has nothing to do with the powers of the Minister. It is a procedure laid down by Parliament not without precedent.

The Transport Tribunal is merely another name for the Railway Rates Tribunal, which is very familiar to traders, and which they have always pressed should be part of the railway rates machinery to give them the fullest opportunity of expressing their views. That applies also to the travelling public. The Section of the Transport Act which concerns the Transport Tribunal has a long connection with railway freights charges, and has had the support of hon. Members in all parts of the House. Here, we are concerned with a much deeper issue than consideration of concessional and substandard charges.

I am convinced that the procedure embarked upon here is not one which the Conservative Party would, in the long view, support. From a leading article in today's issue of "The Times," and from the letter of Sir Eustace Missenden a few days ago, one can see quite clearly that the procedure adopted is causing concern in circles which are in no way connected with our party political disputes on this matter on the Floor of the House. Since the 1947 Act was passed, a definite procedure and practice has been developed within the machinery of Government.

I wish to put to the Parliamentary Secretary a series of specific questions which I think ought to be answered in the interests of the House and of the country generally. Immediately the Transport Tribunal commences to function the Minister of Transport is directly represented at its proceedings. The Minister consults every Government Department affected and inquires from every Government Department whether they desire any representations to be made to the Tribunal, either Departmentally or on behalf of the Government.

The Minister usually notifies the Cabinet that these matters are under consideration in order to ascertain whether there is any aspect of national Government policy which he, as the representative of the Government and the Departments, should represent to the Tribunal. I want to know whether in this instance, in an inquiry which has now been going on for about five months, the Minister of Transport was represented at the Tribunal proceedings. I ask also—and I expect an answer—whether the Department carried out the usual procedure of inquiring from other Government Departments whether they wanted to make any representations.

A question involving workmen's fares or season tickets, or of persons who, as the Home Secretary said, have chosen their place of residence on the basis of certain transport charges, and whose whole personal and domestic economy may be upset as a result of heavy increases in charges, is, clearly, a Departmental matter of some importance. If the Government had been interested in this matter, if they had known what the Minister of Transport was doing, and if they were aware of the functions of the Departmental machinery, the Minister responsible ought to have requested the Minister of Transport to make the necessary representations to the Tribunal.

Photo of Mr Richard Harris Mr Richard Harris , Heston and Isleworth

I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman as closely as I can and to get the purport of his question. Surely he himself was Minister of Transport at the time. The Tribunal sat for the first time on 8th or 9th October, 1951, when he was Minister of Transport.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

Oh, no. The party opposite took office about that time.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

Well, near enough. The Tribunal were just commencing their proceedings.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

Oh, yes. I have always carried through the procedure I am now outlining to the House.

Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , South Dorset

May I put this to the right hon. Gentleman? The tribunal began its preliminary hearing on 17th July. All the way through those summer months, before there was any question of the present Government taking office, did the right hon. Gentleman himself appoint anyone from his Department to be responsible?

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

The time the Tribunal actually sits to consider evidence is the time when the Minister of Transport makes representations. It is no use hon. Gentlemen opposite trying to evade this issue. I followed this procedure on every occasion on which the Tribunal sat and considered these matters. I am not disposed to have this issue forced aside on the basis of a week or two. What I am stating is that practically over the period of five months from October to the end of February the Tribunal were sitting. That was the period during which they were hearing evidence. I put these questions to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I want to know whether this procedure has been carried out. If it has been carried out, that is all right.

I come to my next point. If that procedure was carried out, and the Minister of Transport consulted the Departments and the Government wished to make any representations, will he state that those representations were made to the Commission before the Easter Recess when this matter was brought to the notice of the public? So far as I can see, after the county council elections, the Prime Minister—and I am now dealing with a report which appeared in a newspaper—called several Ministers into conference, and from that meeting, so far as one can judge, a whole series of events happened which eventually gave the public the impression that a standstill was to be applied to the whole of these new charges.

At subsequent stages, we got a modification of that, and it came out bit by bit that it is not a standstill of the transport charges as a whole, but only a standstill of the concession fares and the sub-standard charges, which, as the Home Secretary today admits, represent a figure of £2½ million. I submit, in all seriousness, a business with a turnover of £500 million or £600 million a year, which pays out interest charges of £45 million a year to the Railway and British Transport stock shareholders, and which in the case of the Government in December last authorised a 10 per cent. increase in transport charges, bringing in a figure of something like £20 million a year from the traders of this country, should not put the country and the public generally in the anticipation of a complete interference of its procedure when the figure concerned is £2½ million.

No hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite will convince me that if the Government had measured their position properly and had gone to the Transport Commission or to the Tribunal and discussed this matter with them, they could not have got an adjustment of the situation without all the ballyhoo and upheaval which we have experienced in the last two or three weeks, and which has apparently broken down the health of the Minister of Transport—which I sincerely regret—and which represents the snubbing of the Minister and the overthrow of one of our greatest public servants, Lord Hurcomb. Is that where our great industries are being brought to by the Conservative Party? It is a ridiculous and absurd situation to produce in Parliament over a sum of £2½ million.

I never experienced any difficulty in my discussions with Lord Hurcomb and the Transport Commission on matters of this kind. Everyone knows that people who hold such positions are prepared to meet, accommodate and agree on matters of this sort. I want to remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), did, of what he said when we were discussing the Lords Amendment to the Transport Bill, Clauses 3 and 4. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South, quoted one part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, but I want to remind him that he went beyond that, and said that his chief object was to protect the Transport Commission against political interference. He also said that the vehicle for political interference is the Minister himself. It has been the Minister himself and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet who created the state of affairs that we are considering tonight. I think that is a very regrettable situation indeed.

What are we considering? Why is there this public concern over repeated increases in transport charges? It springs directly from the war-time Government which the present Prime Minister presided over. I was a Member of the war-time Parliament and was proud to give him full support during those critical years. But during the period of the war, when the general price level of all commodities more than doubled, no steps were taken by the Government of the day to adjust transport charges to the movement of the general level of prices.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not going to allege that the railways were not, in fact, making a profit during the war.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I am coming to that. Whether the railways made a profit or not, it was good, sound business to keep their price level in line with what was happening in the community generally, because what had to be faced after the war was the problem of adjusting the charges of basic industry—Transport—vital to every other industry in this country, to the general level of prices prevailing in the community. The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself today admitted that the Government had to meet this problem of the rising cost of transport.

I now come to the point which the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) has raised. The Prime Minister has alleged that the Transport Commission were being subsidised. I emphatically deny that. The Commission have not been subsidised; they have not cost the Treasury a penny. An accumulative deficit of £39 million could not, by any stretch of the imagination be described as a subsidy.

Now I come to the war years and the question of profit. If we take the surpluses which the railway companies and London Transport have made since 1939 to the end of the war, and the passing of the Transport Act, we find that they paid out nearly £600 million, either in share interest or in profit to the Government during the war years.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

And you called that a poor bag of assets.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

In the last three years, they have accumulated a deficit of £39 million. That is after the railways each year paid share interest to the extent of about £30 million a year. I say that any industry that has paid out over £600 million in profit for the Government of the day and for the shareholders and, in three years, on a turnover of £1,500 million, has accumulated a deficit of £39 million is neither bankrupt nor subsidised.

I say to the Home Secretary tonight that the policy which the Government have followed in this instance is dangerous and ill-considered and unworthy of the study which has been given to the transport problem. I have no hesitation at all in voting against the Motion. If the Government felt that there was inequity, as there has been inequity in these matters, they ought to have dealt with it by the proper procedure, and if they had done that I am sure that the Transport Commission would have listened to them.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, will he answer the question which was put to him by my hon. friend the Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins)? The right hon. Gentleman began by saying that he would state whether or not the Opposition approved of the suspension of the increase in railway charges.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I thought I had stated that any hon. Member would approve any effort on the part of the Government to reduce rising costs to the public. I went on to point out that I thought the Conservative Party ought to be more consistent and apply the principle to some of their budgetary proposals.

6.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) was speaking just now, I could not help comparing the words he used with the somewhat more confident words which he used when winding up his Third Reading speech in the debate on the Transport Bill. I remember so well that he said, "Give us five years in this field of transport and we shall do more than"—I think he said—"500 years of Tory Rule."

Reading the Opposition Amendment today, in which they ask that there should be an inquiry into the finances of their beautiful baby, the British Transport Commission, and listening to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), with his suggestions of a somewhat veiled subsidy, I could not help feeling that it was a pity that the habits of six years do not stick so closely to hon. Members opposite as they do to us.

The right hon. Member for East Ham, South, referred to the proceedings of the Transport Tribunal and also to the powers of the Minister. I should like to make some comment on both matters. We must judge both matters not merely by the position as it stood in 1947, when the powers were inserted in the Bill; we must judge them in the light of experience which has since been gained.

What is the experience which has since been gained with regard to the Transport Tribunal? They have done their work patiently and thoroughly. We know their power has been very strictly limited. According to their terms of reference, they have only one thing to think about, and that is whether or not an application made by the Commission will enable the Commission to pay their way. If it will enable the Commission to pay their way, the application must be granted; and, as things have turned out, we have found that every single application made to the Tribunal by the Commission has had to be granted. Whether they would have wished otherwise or not, the Tribunal have found themselves with somewhat limited powers of inquiry, and their powers of decision are extinct.

Photo of Mr Alfred Hargreaves Mr Alfred Hargreaves , Carlisle

The hon. Member has just said that, without exception, every application made by the British Transport Commission to the Tribunal has been granted. Is he aware that the recent application in regard to passenger fares submitted by the B.T.C. to the Tribunal was modified by the Tribunal? In other words, it was not a complete acceptance of the case.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

If the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Hargreaves) will read my speech in HANSARD tomorrow, he will find it recorded that I said "for the most part."[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If I did not say so, that is certainly what I intended to say. Let us try to cut out small points of controversy and get to the substance of the matter; and the substance of the matter is that the applications of the Commission have been granted in substance and for the most part in toto. I grant that there have been some small modifications, some modifications not of immense importance. Certainly on the freight charges, which we must not go into now, the Commission's proposals were approved to the extent of about 90 per cent.

I now turn to the powers of the Minister. The Opposition are in a most perplexing condition today. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South quoted speeches by right hon. Friends of mine in contexts quite different from that of today's debate. He might well have quoted a speech by his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who not very long ago in this House took a quite different view about the Minister's powers under Section 4 (1). It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not consult his hon. Friend beforehand. His hon. Friend said: I do not share his view"— that is, the Minister's view"— that he has no responsibility for the recent rise in fares, because under Section 4 (1) of the Act he has an overriding responsibility for the Transport Commission and can give directions to it when required in the national interest. He told the House that he had no responsibility and that he could have acted in no other way, but I do not share his view. When the Transport Commission asked the Minister for a rise in freight charges, I suggest that he should have delayed his decision. I am sure that the hon. Member for Enfield, East, will recollect this. He went on to say: Coming fresh to his post, he should not have accepted so readily that the only way to meet the situation was to send charges chasing after costs, because as soon as charges are put up to meet costs, then costs rise even further and the inevitable result is that the Transport Commission claim another increase in charges."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1725.] It took the hon. Member four years to come to that point of wisdom. I am glad that he has at last arrived at it, because one of the most alarming things about Socialist planning has been the way in which the Transport Commission and the Coal Board have chased each other's prices upwards. I often wonder whether that fact, which has undoubtedly occurred, was anticipated by the Socialist planners when they made their plans back in 1945 and 1946.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I am not giving way until I have finished this part of my argument. The interesting thing is that this is a matter in which private enterprise compares very favourably with the nationalised industries. Private enterprise did very much better. Instead of chasing each other's costs up and swelling each other's total turnover, the old railway companies and the old coal companies used to have agreements about the sale of coal on the one hand and about transport services on the other hand, and then, as a matter of accounting, they would strike a balance every so many months or at the end of a year, and in that way they voluntarily prevented themselves from inflating each other's costs.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the costs and charges of nationalised industries, particularly coal and railways. Can he tell me of a single private enterprise industry—engineering, shipbuilding, anything he likes—in which the charges to the public or the cost of the product have not increased to a greater extent than that of either coal or transport?

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

Yes, and I can give an illustration in strict relevance to this debate. The charges of the private bus companies have not risen as much as the charges of the British Transport Commission. I believe it is true, incidentally, that the bus companies—

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I am answering one hon. Member at a time. I would also say that the charges of those companies in which the British Transport Commission have a financial interest, but fortunately not a controlling interest, are lower also by comparison with the general passenger charges of the Commission.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I shall get into trouble with the Chair if I give way too much and I shall make a speech which is too long.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South asked, why go to the trouble that has been gone to for the sake of £2½ million out of £500 million? Why all this fuss? I think he has made a good point there, and one may well echo his thought—"why all this fuss?" But let me inform him what the fuss is about. It really starts with his own speech on the Second Reading of the Transport Bill, when he said that the transport industries must be publicly owned and publicly run, with the whole of their accounts and the whole of their affairs subjected to Parliamentary and public examination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1637.] We agree; and I always felt, as an opponent of nationalisation, that the strongest argument against us was that it would put the whole thing on a democratic basis, and that we should at least have the opportunity in this House of exercising some kind of control over a basic public industry. Now that we have taken advantage of that opportunity, hon. Gentlemen opposite, the authors of nationalisation, comes back at us and say, "Why make such a fuss?"

There is a further reason why I am very surprised at hon. Members opposite. They claim to be the party of labour to protect the interests of members of the trade unions. I should have thought they would have been very concerned indeed about interference with the well-established principle of workmen's fares. Historically, it is very interesting to see how workmen's fares came into operation. Public opinion felt very strongly that those workers who were displaced from their homes through the driving of the railways through big cities, especially London, should, as a quid pro quo for being dispossessed from their homes, he given cheap travel facilities. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Members opposite care to look up the history of the matter, they will find that that is so. The Cheap Trains Act finalised that system. I know there is some argument for adjusting those fares; but at any rate the system has become an established part of the wage negotiations of large numbers of trade union members.

What have the Government done? Fortunately the Government have done nothing final that anybody need get excited about. All the Government have done has been to use the democratic opportunity, which is provided by the Transport Act, for considering the matter. The Transport Tribunal, within its limits, and the Consultative Committee have considered the matter; but Parliament must be the final arbiter; and, if hon. Gentlemen had had the same experience as I have had in recent weeks, they would find that it is no use whatever saying to the travelling public, "Parliament have no power and the Minister has no power." The people just will not accept that as a policy. Why should they? Parliament passes laws, Parliament can amend laws, and Parliament should take notice of public opinion.

May I, in conclusion, just say one word about the welcome return of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, to discussions on Parliamentary matters. He was on very much more familiar ground than that on which we have heard him in the last year or two, but candidly I did not think it was quite appropriate for the victim of Abadan to start complaining about the increase in the Petrol Tax, which is entirely the result of his foreign policy. I also thought that his comments about the county council elections were very inapt. What conclusion are we to draw from them? I suppose we are to assume that, if he had been the guiding spirit of the party in power today, any awkward decision would have been deferred until after the county council elections? Are we to assume further that, if there had been an expression of public opinion in the county council elections or otherwise, he would have ignored it?

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

Let me finish my sentence, and then perhaps I shall finish my speech as well.

Surely the Government have not only a right but a duty to take cognizance of public opinion whatever way it is expressed, whether by general clamour, which was unmistakable as in the case of the death penalty—and I speak as one who wanted to do away with the death penalty—or whether manifested in elections of any kind, or simply because it is found that economically the people will not put up with what is suggested.

I warn hon. Gentlemen opposite that, if they wish to see nationalisation succeed in its full integrated form, or if they wish to see nationalisation succeed in a modified form, they have somehow or other to co-operate with us on this side of the House in trying to prevent costs from chasing each other, because if that goes on at the pace it has been doing in the last three years, not only will it ruin the country's transport system, but it will be an irreparable blow to the national economy.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

I do not intend to occupy the time of the House for more than a few moments, and I can certainly promise that, in view of the last part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), where he was suggesting that the time had come—and I will refer to it more fully in a few moments—when we should have an impartial inquiry into the whole matter.

There is another thing which makes it unnecessary to go into this matter at length. There seems to be so much general agreement on both sides of the House that it is the duty of the Government to take cognizance of these matters which affect the public and where necessary, in their view, take action. That is so about the transport, because there is no matter which affects all other industries and all of us so quickly as transport. Any rise in its costs is quickly reflected in nearly everything else. It affects the cost of travelling, the raw materials as they enter the factory, the price of the goods as they leave the factory, and the cost to the retailer and, subsequently, to the public.

Therefore these are matters which, of necessity, must have the full consideration of the Government. It is right that they should be brought before the House. Whether this was the right way to do it and whether Government action was moved by right or wrong motives, I do not propose now to inquire. The great thing is that the House has had its attention focused upon them, and that we are determined that some action shall be taken. We are agreed that the House has a right to inquire into them, and that while we should not inquire too meticulously into matters of ordinary everyday organisation, such as whether trains are arriving late or not, it is our duty as Members of Parliament to inquire into anything which affects the public at large.

The other question is whether these increases in fares are justified. Again it is agreed, I think, that we should follow the procedure which the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) rightly said had been found the correct one throughout a very long period, the old procedure of the Railway and Canal Commission. We should put the matter before a tribunal, everyone should have the right of protest there, and the matter should be considered, as indeed it has been considered, judicially; and we should not lightly interfere with decisions at which such a tribunal arrives.

In regard to the power of the railways to meet rising costs, the matter has not been tackled as it should have been, either by the nationalised industry, by the Commission, or by its predecessors. They seem to me to have proceeded exactly as when the railways were first started about 110 years ago. No recognition seems to have been given to the tremendous changes brought about by the development of the internal combustion engines in the conveyance of goods and passengers. They have just gone on as they always have. The Commission seems to think it has done a very good thing now and again in closing a branch line. It may be necessary to close some branch lines; I do not know. Some branch lines have been doing extremely good work, and it may be necessary to keep branch lines open for the conveyance of heavy traffic.

The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and I have often mentioned in this House our recognition of the fact that the lorry and the motor car have made a great difference in the carrying of transport to and from the railways. When the railways were first made, goods had to be brought to them and taken away by horse and cart. The result was that stops had to be made by the railways every two or three miles, at most. We have continued that system to this day. Anybody can send goods to little stations in small quantities and in large trucks, and much expense is entailed in shunting and moving the trucks until at last they arrive at the little station.

The cost of handling the goods at the stations, as well as of taking them to the trucks and away from the trucks, adds very much to the expense. If the goods were loaded into a lorry at a main station it would not matter very much whether they had to be taken 10 yards or 10 miles. This is a matter that the Commission ought to inquire into, to see whether a great deal of present costs could be saved by closing the smaller stations both for passengers and goods and conveying passengers and goods by road to the main stations.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

That is a very important point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is now making a very sound case for the co-ordination of road haulage with the railways to achieve that very purpose.

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

I have always said that it is only right that the railways should run road transport in that connection, but they used to complain that they had not the power to do so. I could never understand why they did not come to the House and ask for it. [An HON. MEMBER: "They did."] Not until rather late in the day, when they tried to attract the public away from the roads and on to the railways by putting all kinds of difficulties in the way of road transport.

I am pointing out, as I gather that this is also the view of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, that the time has come when we should have an inquiry into these matters. In that way we might not only save a great deal of cost now being incurred by the railways, but the necessity for electrifying railways would not be confined to London. What about the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire? How is the capital to be found? I should have thought that these were the very things on which to concentrate. We may be doing some good service in this debate and conferring a real benefit upon the country by focusing attention on these matters.

7.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

When all the tumult and shouting about this matter of fares, both as regards London and the rest of the country, has finished, the main problem will still remain; that is, if it is necessary for the Transport Commission to have this income, how, in the absence of a subsidy, the income is to be found from the travelling public. We hope that it will be possible to maintain the standstill on sub-standard fares for the rest of the country and to bring about some amelioration for London in the increases which have already taken place.

There has been much talk about the London fares area, but the word "London" is very much a misnomer in this case. I have the honour to sit for Bedfordshire, South, and almost all the people who travel to my constituency in this part of the country, or those who come away from it—not many wish to do so—travel by London Transport. I am a frequent patron of their transport in going to my constituency, which is more than 30 miles from London, and I go by London Transport bus, and not necessarily by Green Line coach.

I must be controversial because I hold my views strongly on this matter. The root cause of the problem the House is considering is the nationalisation which we have in this service, and particularly in London. In particular, it is the special form of nationalisation that obtains in the service. The Post Office is very much a nationalised service, but in its general work, and at times in its day-to-day work, it is responsible directly to the House of Commons. What is this new political idea that a nationalised service in a basic industry must be entirely divorced from our control here in Parliament?

The present form of nationalisation, whether it be of the railways, gas or electricity, will inevitably have to be changed. I believe that is realised by hon. Members on both sides of this House. We cannot continue to tie the hands of a representative and constitutional body such as the House of Commons in dealing with these basic industries and, whenever any intervention is made, to have a fuss about it. There is only one constitutional body in the British Isles responsible to the people of this country. That is the House of Commons, not nationalised industry.

In the case of transport, perhaps even more than in regard to gas and electricity, we are dealing with nationalisation vis-à-vis an essential service. People must travel to and from their work, and in London, particularly, transport is a specialised basic service. We have heard something in recent months about the way buses travel empty in the inner parts of London and great distances in the outer parts. Therefore London requires an expert body to consider its transport problem. What have we got? Since 1933 we have had a nationalised body, in all but name, responsible to no one, certainly not to this House or to a board of directors; not responsible in any way except to the clamour of public opinion when things go too far. I am sure that the next five or 10 years will see a change in the form of nationalisation we have today. I hope and trust that we shall not continue to have nationalisation but, if we have it, the form will be quite different.

I have always felt that so long as we have nationalisation of industries they should be conducted on a businesslike basis. If we do not agree with nationalisation, we should try to remove it, but while it is under the rule of law we should try to make it work properly. In the last five or six years in London, during which there has been a rising cost of living, we have had the largest extension of passenger transport that has ever been seen in this country. It has taken place at a time when most of us have been considering what has happened to the money in our pockets—

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

That is the whole burden of my complaint. We have had the tramcars removed, we have had new and expensive buses put on the road in the London Transport area. I wonder how many hon. Members have seen the splendid Green Line buses which are available for their transport? I doubt whether during the last five or six years it was necessary to provide new and such expensive buses for the people of London.

One reason why the tram was invented was because it was a good, cheap and effective form of public transport. The trams have gone—[An HON. MEMBER: "So has the stage coach."]—and have been replaced by vehicles of a much more expensive character. What the public of Great Britain want is cheap and comfortable travelling. And both those things are important. The average man going to his work does not ask for an expensive but for a comfortable vehicle at a price within his means. What he is getting at the moment is a large and expensive vehicle, and we are having to face the costs involved. Have hon. Members opposite considered, the viewpoint of the man who is being asked to pay a 40 per cent. increase in his fares, whether standard or sub-standard, who, confronted with that increase, sees these new and expensive buses on the roads?

The last three lines of the Amendment read as follows: … reaffirming the view that the interests of the travelling public and commercial users and those engaged in the industry will be best served by the integration under public ownership of road and rail transport, as provided in the Transport Act, 1947. Does this House, especially hon. Members opposite, confronted with the rise in London fares and with the potential rise in fares throughout the country as a result of nationalisation, think that the general public feel that an even larger measure of nationalisation is what they should have to give them back their lower fares?

7.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank McLeavy Mr Frank McLeavy , Bradford East

We should keep firmly in our minds throughout this debate that we are dealing with problems which affect not only the travelling public and well over a million men employed in the transport industry, but also the proper development and management of our nationalised transport. What we do now and in the months which lie ahead of us may well have serious effects, not only upon the prosperity of the transport industries but upon the economic life of the nation.

To my mind, nothing is more likely to affect the conduct of those charged with the responsibility of direction, or to make them less anxious to plan a long-term scheme of development and financial solvency, than a feeling of uncertainty as to how far they can carry out their statutory obligations to provide an effective and properly co-ordinated transport system without political interference.

During the war years transport was kept out of politics and in every field of its activities played a vital part in the war effort. However, it should not be forgotten that during the war neither the owners nor the workers in the industry received anything like the profits or wages obtainable in other industries. Furthermore, the railways accumulated arrears of repairs and renewals which presented the Railway Executive with a serious financial handicap. In fairness to the industry these facts should be placed on record.

I suggest to the House that today we are fighting a no less grim and vital war, a war to win back national prosperity, to preserve for our people a standard of life which has been gravely imperilled by our financial sacrifices in two world wars. We need the same measure of common sacrifice and restraint on all sides if we are to win through, and sectional interests should be subordinated to the common cause, because if we fail to win through disaster will face all of us. We have got to win through, and we can only do so by the unity of purpose of the nation; but we shall not get that unity of purpose if we start playing politics with this important section of industry.

What are the views of both sides of the industry? These are views to which the House ought to pay regard. A responsible trade paper—"Modern Transport"—in no way associated with the Labour Party or agreeing with our political philosophy, in its editorial last week, under the title of "Fares and Fantasy," brought the Government under very severe criticism. This is what the editor wrote: It seems to be transport's fate to be bedevilled by politics. After saying that transport was kept out of party conflict during the war the editor continued: Since then those who have had the thankless task of implementing the Transport Act of 1947 have had to put up with a spate of unfair criticism"— that is a very moderate expression of opinion— mainly because they were running a nationalised undertaking. It would be amusing if it were not so tragic; for those who have laboured to make the scheme a success had no desire to be nationalised … and it is they who are being ignored by the present Government. That they"— that is, the Commission— have achieved a large measure of success in the face of appalling difficulties is acknowledged by all who study the subject intelligently and impartially. Largely on account of the one-sided attitude of a section of the Press, the general public have been woefully ignorant of fundamental factors in transport. … What is so upsetting in the present situation is their"— that is, the Government's— wilful determination to formulate plans without any consultation with the men who are running transport today and most of whom were active in its administration before nationalisation. These are very serious criticisms indeed, and criticisms which have not so far been answered in the debate.

What are the views of the workers' organisations? My own trade union, the Transport and General Workers' Union, which under the wise leadership, first, of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin and, now, of Mr. Arthur Deakin has done much to help in the steady development of the industry. Although the primary purpose of a trade union is to safeguard and to improve the standard of life of its members—and this union has a proud record in this respect—we have always, as a union, taken the view that the proper development of transport was vitally important to the economic life of the nation.

The Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Union have passed a resolution expressing grave concern at the lack of policy on the part of the Government in regard to the passenger fares issue. It is only right that I should read the resolution to the House, so that it can be put on record as the expression of a union which deals with a very large percentage of the men engaged in the road transport industry—indeed, it deals with pretty well the whole lot. The resolution of the Finance and General Purposes Committee is as follows: Transport, unlike most industries or services, must submit proposals for any increase in charges to the statutory authority before any increases can be introduced. It is therefore suggested that to single out the transport industry for special treatment and for the Cabinet to reach decisions over the head of the responsible Minister can lead to disaster and conflict within the industry.Above all the Committee feels that the efforts of the British Transport Commission to carry out its statutory obligations to provide an effective and properly co-ordinated transport system will be made completely impossible if the present Governmental policy continues.The Committee therefore calls upon the Government to give further consideration to this matter with a view to allowing transport undertakings to charge these fares which will enable them to meet their commitments and develop a properly co-ordinated system as an essential part of our national economy.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

Does the hon. Member read from that resolution that the union are satisfied with the increases that have been put into force in the London area?

Photo of Mr Frank McLeavy Mr Frank McLeavy , Bradford East

The resolution is an indication of the considered opinion of a responsible trade union committee which deals with matters relating to that section of the industry. I ask the hon. Member to re-read what I have quoted, so that he may form his own opinion as to the meaning.

Photo of Mr Frank McLeavy Mr Frank McLeavy , Bradford East

I have endeavoured to put the viewpoint of the two sides of the industry. Those two points of view, coming from such weighty sources, are entitled to very serious consideration by the Government.

Photo of Mr Frank McLeavy Mr Frank McLeavy , Bradford East

If the Government carry out their proposals as indicated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—he and I had some tussles in Standing Committee B over the whole of the Transport Bill—to de-nationalise road haulage and to extend the 25 miles limit, they will destroy any real chance of transport finding a sound way out of its financial difficulties. They will do great harm to the best interests of the nation.

What the Government appear to overlook is that the solution of the present difficulties will still leave to be solved others arising from the dearer living policy incorporated in the Budget. By the Budget, the Government have embarked upon a policy of ever-increasing prices in the essentials of life—food, clothing and housing—coupled with increased tax on petrol and oil, which means further increases in fares.

I do not know whether hon. Members appreciate fully what the increase in the tax on oil means to the industry. I should like the Home Secretary to take note of the statement I am about to make. It is estimated that the increased petrol and oil tax imposed by the Budget will represent to road passenger transport alone the additional running cost of £100 per bus per year. The effect on road haulage will also be very serious. Even higher fares would have been necessary on the buses long ago had it not been for the change-over to fuel oil driven buses.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

Did the hon. Member vote against petrol increases?

Photo of Mr Frank McLeavy Mr Frank McLeavy , Bradford East

I think these facts ought to be borne in mind by the Government. It is really no good the Chancellor of the Exchequer hoping that his policy will not result in substantial increases in wages. Let this be clearly understood by the Government and the Opposition, organised labour is determined to maintain the general standard of life of the workers. We are not prepared to accept a position whereby the rich become richer and the poor are made poorer.

We demand the application of the policy which was carried out so faithfully by the Labour Government since 1945, the principle of sharing the blessings, if I may use the famous phrase of the Prime Minister. But the policy of the Tory Government up to now is that they have certainly been sharing the blessings of office among themselves instead of among the nation in general. If we are to find a solution to this transport problem, we can only find it by applying the principle of fairness and equity on all these matters.

I want to conclude as I began, and to re-emphasise this point. If we are to win this battle to bring security and prosperity back to Britain and to maintain our standard of life, we are not—

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

What about the petrol prices?

Photo of Mr Frank McLeavy Mr Frank McLeavy , Bradford East

I am making a serious appeal to the House. If the hon. Member is more concerned about political jibes than meeting this serious argument, the sooner he retires from the House of Commons the better. I am making the appeal to all sides of the House and to everyone who has the real interest of the nation at heart. After all, what does it matter whether the Conservative Party or the Labour Party win a county council elections in comparison with the great problem of national survival? I say that in all seriousness. We lost the county council elections three years ago because Sir Stafford Cripps brought in an honest Budget and the people did not like it and voted against it. Hon. Members opposite lost it this time because they dishonoured their election pledges.

I want to appeal to the Government and to hon. Members opposite to make sure that any solution of this transport problem is found on the basis of trying to spread the cost over broader fields. I have great sympathy for the position of our railway friends, and the more we look at the problem the more we become convinced that the representations which have been made from this side of the House, that we should consider the financial build-up of the Transport Commission, is possibly a way out of the situation. We have to make sure that we find, not a temporary solution, but a reasonable solution which will prevail for 10, 20, 30 years, probably more. We have to find a sound basis by which British transport can be placed in such a position that it can not only provide services for the community at reasonable fares having regard to general cost levels throughout the country in other industries, but, what is equally important, provide for those engaged in the industry a standard of life equal to that prevailing in the best of the other industries in the country.

I believe that can be achieved. It can be achieved if we keep politics out of the transport business. It can be achieved if both sides get together and try to hammer out a scheme. I am more concerned about solving this transport problem than I am about scoring a point against the Conservative Party, or any other party. It is vastly more important, and I say that with all sincerity, and I ask the House to take that line. I ask the Government to take that line and let us try to find a solution which will bring prosperity back to the industry and to this nation because, if we impoverish it and lower the standard of the transport industry, we shall go a long way towards making impossible the economic survival of this country.

7.38 p.m.

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

I am grateful for the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), with whose concluding remarks I am quite sure hon. Members on this side of the House find themselves very largely in agreement. I am sure we welcomed his concluding remarks much more than the paper he read to us which, although extremely interesting, we had heard before and which we were not looking forward eagerly to hearing again.

As we have heard it, may I direct the attention of the House back to the subject we are supposed to be discussing and deal with the question of fare increases which have taken place and which, in this year 1952, have excited the sympathy of hon. Members opposite, who have suddenly come to the conclusion that these increases in fares are of some interest to their constituents and therefore are something about which they should exhibit some kind of indignation.

I take the opportunity of pointing out that this is not the first increase in fares which has taken place. It is the first increase in fares which has excited the attention of hon. Members opposite, but it is not by any means the first increase that has taken place. There was an application by the Transport Commission to the Tribunal in 1950, as the result of which a very substantial increase in fares took place. I cannot remember a single Member opposite rising in his place to demand that the Minister of Transport should do something about it.

Indeed, the then Minister of Transport, the hon. Member for East Ham, North—[Interruption.] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; I should hate to couple the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) with the sins of the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes). The right hon. Member displayed a masterly inertia in the steps he took to try to protect the travelling public. He never attempted to intervene and, if it is alleged that it is wrong on the part of Her Majesty's Government to take some action to protect the travelling public, surely it is a more praiseworthy step than the lack of interest displayed by the right hon. Gentleman who was then the Minister of Transport.

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Birmingham, Perry Barr

Does not the hon. Member realise that the action which he alleges was taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), when he was Minister, or the lack of action, was exactly on the lines of that taken by his own party?

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

The hon. Member really cannot get away with that. The gravamen of the charge alleged against us is that it was wrong for the Government as a Government to intervene in this matter. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is perfectly true that the former Minister of Transport did nothing. It is equally true, to follow his argument further, to say that not only did the Minister do nothing but that the Cabinet apparently never even considered it worth their attention.

We were told by the right hon. Member for East Ham, South, speaking this afternoon, that it was his practice, when these matters were likely to affect the lives of the people, to circularise all Departments to try to find out what effect it would have on the lives of the people if there were a general increase. In the case of transport, no representations were brought before the Tribunal urging that it was wrong that the season ticket rates of those in the London transport area should be raised. It went through without protest by the Minister, or by the Government or by the Socialist Members in this House.

In those circumstances, I suggest that apparently the only time when Members opposite are worried about increases in fares is when they happen to be in opposition, and they are particularly resentful that the Government of the country, which is responsible for our country today, is more cognisant of the needs of the travelling public than they were when they occupied the benches on this side of the House.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

The hon. Member refers to the increased rates and charges in 1950. I am sure he will appreciate that that step arose very largely from the increase in the rates of wages and improved conditions of service of railwaymen. It was admitted that previously they had been very low. Is the hon. Member now arguing that railwaymen should be kept down to a substandard scale of wages and conditions?

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

No, of course I am not trying to argue anything of the kind. If the hon. Member will listen further to my argument, he will have a clearer idea of what I am suggesting than is conveyed by his attempt to make out that I want to grind down the wages of the railwaymen. Members on this side of the House are as anxious as hon. Members opposite to see the best possible conditions provided for those whose livelihood is gained on the railways. It is wrong to assume that, because we sit on one side of the House or the other, one side is interested in forcing down the workers' wages and the other side is interested in forcing them up. I dislike that warped-mind approach to this subject.

To deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), I would point out to him that the fare increases which took place in 1950 were of a limited character but nevertheless affected very harshly considerable sections of the population. To argue, as we seek to argue, that it is wrong to inflict that hardship on a particular section of the community, is not to suggest that railway fares should in no circumstances be increased. Of course we do not so argue.

We realise that as costs increase it is sometimes necessary for fares also to rise, but we are interested in the just and fair application of such increase to the fares which have to be increased. In their evidence to the Transport Tribunal, the British Transport Commission had some interesting things to say. They said: Passenger travelling at sub-standard charges are of course paying less than their equitable share. What do they mean by of course paying less than their equitable share"? If they mean that they are paying less than their equal share, I can understand that, but to say that they are paying less than their equitable share pre-supposes that it is equitable and just for all railway passengers to pay the same fare. I do not agree with that. I think that the equitable cost of transporting workers from their place of residence to their place of employment is the economic price of providing that transport plus a certain additional amount for expenses and various matters of that kind. But normally, provided that they pay the fair and just cost of transport, that is as much as they should be called upon to pay.

The suggestion is actively encouraged by the British Transport Commission, and apparently supported by the Tribunal, that anyone who is paying less than what they consider to be the standard rate is thereby causing severe losses to the railway system. The fact is that any railwayman—I call in aid many distinguished past servants of the railways whom I see on the opposite side of the House—knows perfectly well that the fact that the fare which is paid is less than what is regarded as the standard fare is not at all proof that the railways are losing money on the line.

On the contrary, there are many sections of railway line in this country on which the charges have in the past been low but which have proved to be the most colossal money-makers there are. I instance the case of the line which serves, or fails to serve, according to one's viewpoint, my own constituency, and which is much used by the travelling public. The fares on it are admittedly less than the normal standard charge, but the railways have made and continue to make a very substantial profit on them. Yet they will, if they continue on these lines, turn this profit-making venture into a loss-making venture by so increasing the prices that people will now move away from the constituency which I have the honour to represent in order to be nearer their places of employment. [Interruption.] I assure hon. Members that these people do not leave me with pleasure. They would sooner be represented by me, a Member who is prepared to fight their case in the House, than by some Socialist Members who only represent their interests when they happen to be in opposition and forget them when they are the Government.

As an instance of what is happening and to show that fares have not only been increased recently, prior to 1950 the cost to a working man—there are 20,000 people who travel on that line daily, and they cannot all be wealthy stockbrokers, some are working men—of a quarterly season ticket was £9 12s. 6d. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which class?"] Third class—nobody is rash enough to get a first-class ticket on that line; there are not enough first-class carriages, as the hon. Member should know.

In the lifetime of the last Government the cost went up to £11 2s. 9d. Now it has gone up from £9 12s. 6d. prior to 1950 to £13 6s. 9d., an increase of 38.57 per cent. I believe that to be an unfair imposition upon those who were first attracted to live in the area, as was the case in a number of other districts of the country, by the provision of cheap fares.

That has happened, not only in Southend, but elsewhere where satellite towns have been created near large industrial centres. It seems to me that if the Transport Commission intend to pursue the line of making it increasingly difficult for people to be able to afford the fares to enable them to live outside large industrial centres, the whole of our time spent in town planning new areas and building satellite towns will be utterly wasted.

From all standpoints we should recognise how desirable it is that we should not have population concentrated inside the London Metropolitan area but that there should be facilities for people to live outside that area while still being within the London Transport area, which extends more than 40 miles from London, without finding themselves inflicted with these severe financial burdens which the Transport Commission seeks to inflict upon them because it is obsessed with the idea of equality instead of equity.

I suggest that the Government are to be congratulated on being the first Government since the inception of the British Transport Commission to have the commonsense to try to draw the attention of the Commission to the fact that there are other considerations which have to be taken into account as well as merely the question of equal fares for everybody, no matter in what part of the country they happen to live; and that there are certain social considerations which should be considered. The fact is that the Government have taken this step whereas the two previous Socialist Governments completely ignored it. I admire them for their courage and wish them every success.

7.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), in all his vague generalities. It is clear that every hon. Member is vitally interested in the problems confronting the transport industry, and I have listened in the hope that some concrete proposal or plan to deal with them would come from the Government; but up to now there has been merely vague generalisations.

Everyone is agreed that the financial position of the railways is precarious. But no hon. Member has attempted to prove that that is in any way due to nationalisation. The history of the railways demonstrates that the present position is not entirely new.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

Did not the speech from the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), prove that the railways were paying before the war?

Hon. Members:

During the war.

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

If the hon. Member will be patient I will deal with the financial implications in a moment. I have spent all my life in the railway industry—

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

—and I have never seen them in any other position than one of financial difficulty. It is my personal opinion that when the industry was nationalised the basis of compensation should have received more consideration. I contend that it was far too generous. Had we waited another two years we should have seen two of the group companies bankrupt. The purchasing price would then have been considerably less, thus reducing our present interest charges.

In the days of private enterprise we had a situation when no profit was made and no interest or dividend payments were made. At the present time, under the nationalisation set-up, although the industry is running at a loss, dividend payments are made on invested capital, and I am glad that the Amendment calls for an inquiry to unravel some of the problems of finance.

The present malaise in our inland transport situation is not restricted to this country. It is practically universal. We have the railways seeking financial solvency and the road transport industry in competition asking for better roads. We have the users of transport asking for cheaper transport, and for unrestricted freedom for "C" licence holders, without any regard to the retarding effect on the railway industry. Also we have a situation where the taxpayer is hoping that transport will not be a further burden on taxation.

I know it is contrary to human nature that those directly interested in the operation of transport of one form or the other should approach the subject objectively, or ask themselves what should be the division of function between the different forms of transport in the national interest. We should have got on quicker with co-ordination if each form of transport had studied its proper place before framing its own policy. Unless we get co-ordination in the transport industry in this country one or other forms of transport will be destroyed. It is time that the road versus rail controversy was forgotten. The two forms of transport should be complementary. At the moment they are not, and if they do not become complementary the effect on our internal economy will be disastrous.

I wish to refer to the splendid work done and the economies effected during the four years the British Transport Commission has been in operation. For example, there are 12 standard types of locomotives as compared with approximately 400 when I was in the railways' service. We have all-steel coaches with shock resistance increased by 100 per cent.—

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Billericay

But we still travel in cattle trucks.

Photo of Mr David Jones Mr David Jones , Hartlepools, The

I should think that is quite suitable.

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

There has been a drastic reduction in the many types of wagons—new standard units and fittings—which enable the best advantage to be taken of the workshops available to British Railways, and thus makes it possible to reduce the number of workshops to a minimum, with a saving of tools and machines. Apart from programmes scheduled, long ago, we must examine this matter in the light of the Government cut in capital investment. A number of diesel engines which should have been available, at least for shunting operations, have had to be scrapped, and so have many of the electrification schemes which would have been of advantage to the industry and the travelling public.

In the Economic Survey for 1952 is to be found this interesting pronouncement: In present conditions of steel shortage the railways will have to make substantial cuts in their programme for the replacement of locomotives and rolling-stock, and civil engineering, works on stations, bridges and tunnels must also be severely restricted: there must be some curtailment of track renewal. With regard to the interjection by the hon. Member opposite, I would suggest to him that he must take some responsibility for many of the undesirable features of railway travel in view of the capital investment cut imposed by his own Government on the British Transport Commission.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Billericay

Surely the hon. Member is aware that capital investment cuts did not start with the present Government, but sprang directly from the mishandling of this country's economic affairs by their predecessors.

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

I have no desire to argue which Government were responsible. The facts are there, and the capital investment cut has had very serious repercussions upon expansion and development so far as the British Transport Commission is concerned.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Billericay

Past investment cuts.

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

With regard to capital investment, if we look across the Atlantic we find that in 1951 the American railways expended no less than 1,413 million dollars on capital investment, which is, approximately, £504,225,000, whereas only £72 million was authorised in this country for the British Transport Commission. If railways are to contribute—

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

Can the hon. Member tell me the difference between track mileage in the United States and in this country?

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

I do not think that is a relevant question at the moment.

If the railways are asked to contribute to the national economy, then that cannot be achieved without a corresponding effect on the physical assets of the industry and this, in turn, applies to the standard of service which the railways can render. I contend that in spite of all the difficulties it has encountered, the British Transport Commission has made an excellent job of the work undertaken by it during the last four years.

I now want to say a word about the fare position, which is a highly important matter. During the last two years there have been two prolonged inquiries before the Transport Tribunal in regard to London fares. The second inquiry was begun in April, 1951, and did not end until December of that year. There appeared before the Tribunal no fewer than 44 local authorities and 55 other bodies, and 8,000 questions were asked. Up to the moment I have not heard a single point raised in this debate which was not put forward before that Tribunal. The Transport Tribunal is, of course, an official body and its evidence is available to the public.

I would point out to the House that even with the present increase in London fares, the total increase is now only 74 per cent. above the pre-war level. That is very interesting.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Hutchinson Sir Geoffrey Hutchinson , Ilford North

The Consultative Committee gave a figure of 86 per cent., which is not the same as that given by London Transport.

Photo of Mr Walter Monslow Mr Walter Monslow , Barrow-in-Furness

That includes the London suburban lines. The overall figure, excluding those suburban lines, is 74 per cent., whereas costs have gone up more than double. In the London area alone, the increase in cost last year was no less than £10 million. Incidentally, the last Budget imposed a further burden on the London Transport Commission in the matter of the increased price of fuel to the order of a further £1 million. I suggest that transport costs cannot remain fixed while the cost of everything else is rising. Wages, steel, coal and oil have all risen since October, 1950. I suggest that the Government's sympathy which is suggested in the Motion on the Order Paper today in respect of high fares is clearly false, because their own policy has to some extent been responsible for the increased charges which have to be made.

I will now make one or two concrete suggestions as to how I would deal with the problem. I disagree profoundly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) when he says that he would not agree to a subsidy. My view is that in the present difficulty I would agree to a temporary subsidy to carry us over this difficult transition stage. If such a subsidy cannot be agreed to, then I would suggest that the maintenance and renewal costs of the permanent way should come within the ambit of the defence programme, thereby making it possible to reduce freight and fare charges and thus help industry generally.

I should like the Transport Commission to press on with all possible speed with its plan for an integrated national system. I would also take off the ban on capital investment as far as railways are concerned. I suggest that if a war emergency arose it would be necessary for the maintenance and renewal of our permanent way to receive immediate attention in order to meet that contingency. If the Government's policy in respect of food subsidies is any criterion, then, apparently, a general subsidy for the railways is ruled out, especially if we look at the problem in relation to the Government's intention to de-nationalise the road transport industry. It appears to me that the only policy enunciated by the Government today is to give the cream to the road hauliers. That appears to be their permanent solution to this grave economic problem.

I regard the suggestions I have made as highly commendable for consideration. I believe they would make the railways solvent and would have the effect of reducing freight and fare charges, thus helping the general economy of the country at the present time. I submit that the policy proposed by the Government in their Motion today is one which can only be considered as sinister in the extreme and as purely election mongering.

The Motion which the Government have moved is entirely dishonest, because up to now they have given no projected plan for the reorganisation of this great basic industry. They have not made up their mind to recognise that the railways are an economic asset to this country.

8.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Harris Mr Richard Harris , Heston and Isleworth

We listened with great interest to what was said by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow). We on this side of the House have found ourselves in agreement with some of the things said by hon. Members opposite, and with other things we have found ourselves in violent disagreement. To deal with the last point which the hon. Member made—that about a subsidy. That is a subject on which there is much divided feeling, but there is one thing which I think everybody on both sides of the House would agree—that before we start handing out a subsidy to the railways we must at any rate make quite sure that the money will not be wasted. And I am not saying that I am in favour of a subsidy. It is very important as far as London Transport is concerned that we should get that assurance.

I am not necessarily one of those who wish to see a general inquiry into the whole transport set-up in the country. That could be settled across the Floor of the House. But I think there could be a case for setting up a small local inquiry into the running of the London Transport Executive—a purely business inquiry—to see whether or not it is as efficient as it could be.

My constituency is Heston and Isleworth, which is about nine or 10 miles from Westminster, and a lot of my constituents come to London every day. They see a great deal of the activities of London Transport Executive; and they are continually bringing to my notice examples of what they think is inefficient. I do not know whether it is or not. It may be that there is a good answer to many of the allegations, but at any rate I should like to see an independent committee of business men looking into this position.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

What sort of business men?

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

It should include trade unionists as well. I say that to please the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), who represents the Transport and General Workers' Union and told us, not so long ago, what the Union thought of the Government's action, although he omitted to tell us what his electors, at Bradford, East, thought about the Government's action in deferring the increase in railway fares. I should like to know what his electors are thinking about it.

The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness said no one has proved that the present situation is due to nationalisation. Of course, the general burden of what we, the Conservative Party, think is that it is the policies of the Labour Party over the last six years which have got the transport industry into its present mess.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

It is a little early to start interrupting before I have made my points, but as the hon. Gentleman represents a constituency next door to mine, I will let him do so.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

The point is this—that the Minister for Economic Affairs, who is an authority on this matter, said the exact opposite. He said that had there not been nationalization—

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

He said it in this House, I have not the exact date. He said that had it not been for the war and for nationalisation, the private companies would be in extreme financial difficulties.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

I am concerned with the difficulties in which the Government find themselves with these tremendous increases in fares, and they, I submit, are the result of nationalisation. It is a problem which is not confined to the transport industry. Other industries have been nationalised, and the same considerations apply. They are all gigantic monopolies over which the Government have little or no control, and that must be a bad thing.

Let us take the transport industry. The Labour Government fathered the British Transport Commission, nationalised transport and, not only nationalised it, but bastardised it as well. Having brought the ugly infant into the world, they turned it loose to run riot and to do what it liked. Thus we have this huge industry and no control over it. Now the Labour Party are taking a paternal interest in its activities, because they have been compelled to do so by the complaints of their own constituents, who are complaining about the tremendous increases in fares.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

I have already given way once. I do not want to do so again because I have not much time. There has been an accusation today that the Conservative Party are trying to bring the transport industry into the political field. But who started bringing it into the political field? Transport was brought into the political field first of all by a book called "Let us face the Future," in which it was announced that the transport industry would be nationalised. One of the reasons for doing so was in a sentence which said: Each industry must have applied to it the the test of national service. If it serves the nation, well and good; if it is inefficient and falls down on its job, the nation must see that things are put right. That is all the Conservative Government are doing today. Here is an industry which is falling down on the job and which is apparently inefficient—or at least, there is good reason for supposing that it is not as efficient as it could be. We should like to see some kind of inquiry into the efficiency of certain parts of it.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

The Amendment is rather limited. It says that nationalisation is a good thing in any case. Some of us do not like that, and some of us would be inclined to do away with nationalisation. But with hon. Members opposite, of course, nationalisation is sacred. The Amendment is no good to us; we want something much more impartial than that. The Labour Party have got themselves into considerable trouble as a result of their past policies, and it is easy to see that they have very uneasy consciences because here, at least, is a Government which has dared to challenge something which a nationalised industry has done. We, on this side of the House, believe that a nationalised board is not omniscient. It may have tremendous powers and be practically omnipotent, but it is not omniscient.

It is interesting to see the way in which the increases in fares have been made in the transport industry. First of all, there was a charges scheme prepared by the British Transport Commission. This, which I hold in my hand, is the last one which was published on 7th April, 1951. I wonder whether it is completely honest. For instance, I find on page 5 the statement that the Commission propose to limit the amount of the increase in accordance with the following formula: with certain minor exceptions, defined in the scheme, no season ticket rate in operation immediately before the new scheme comes into force shall be increased by more than 25 per cent. and no other charge shall be increased by more than 50 per cent. except where the amount of the increase is not more than 1½d. How can they make a statement like that—that no season ticket rates will be increased by more than 25 per cent.—when the latest increases were considerably in excess of that? We have had examples of the new season ticket rates quoted today by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden). I could do the same. It would only bore the House if I gave a long list, and I will just take examples. The monthly season ticket rate from Hounslow, East to Hammersmith was £1 6s., and now it is £1 16s. 3d., which is an increase of more than 25 per cent. The monthly return from Isleworth to Waterloo was 1s. 9d. and has been increased to 3s. 2d. I cannot understand how the Commission can make these tremendous increases when they made a definite statement that there was to be no increase of more than 25 per cent. in the rate of season tickets.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

Why did not the Minister exercise his powers?

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

We have had a lot about that—a lot of criticism of the Government for alleged muddle. They did not start the muddle, but the fact is that they have done something. Let us go back to the nationalised industries.

Here is how the transport industry manage to get their increases in fares. First of all, there is a charges scheme which goes before the Transport Tribunal, which is a tribunal with very limited powers. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness said that nothing has been said in the House today which was not said before the Transport Tribunal. I have read most of the proceedings of the Tribunal, and I can assure him that what he says is not correct. The Chairman of the Tribunal is a very stern individual who does not allow anything to be said unless it is strictly within the powers of the Tribunal itself. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that a great deal more has been said in this House than was ever said before the Tribunal.

I had the pleasure of appearing before the Transport Tribunal on the previous occasion in 1950, and I should have appeared before it on the last occasion but for the fact that the General Election came just about the same time and my campaign was due to begin on the same day as that on which the Transport Tribunal was due to begin its sittings. That is a point for the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) to note, who has been directing some questions to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport asking why the Minister of Transport did not do certain things when the Transport Tribunal began to sit. He seems to have forgotten that he was Minister of Transport on 8th October when the Tribunal first began to sit.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite):

That was a point I was going to make.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

I am sorry if I have spoilt my hon. Friend's speech. But that is how fares come to be made in the transport industry. There is this fairly complicated system, which took a great deal of time from April, 1951, when the scheme was put forward, until December, when the hearings were finally concluded before the Tribunal.

In the other nationalised industries there is as serious a situation, though it is almost more difficult to do anything about them. We have had tremendous increases in the price of coal, in the price of gas, in the price of electricity. [An HON. MEMBER: "And of steel."] Not as much as in these other things which affect the consumer much more. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] Yes. The housewife does not buy lumps of steel in the local shops. She does use gas, and she does use electricity, and she does use coal. It seems to me it is rather a pity that these other industries do not have an equally complicated system that they have got to go through before they can increase their charges, because then, perhaps, if they had, there would be more chance for the Government to step in to take some action.

Anyhow, in the transport industry, which we are talking about tonight, there is a complicated system to get higher fares; but, even so, I still say that this British Transport Commission and the Transport Tribunal are bodies with strictly limited powers, and they are not able to see the whole economic position of the country. They have to act solely in relation to their own particular problems, without relation to the problems of any other parts of our national economy, and that is why the Government have had to step in, and that is why there will always be this liability on the Government to take action to protect the consumers against these great monopolies.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Billericay

Will my hon. Friend permit me? Certainly in South Essex and in my constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East, there is growing evidence that, as a result of these charges being made, people are going to the employment exchanges to seek to change their jobs. That, I am sure my hon. Friend would agree, is evidence in support of the Government's action. It is becoming absolutely imperative in the national interest and in the interests of those people that some sort of intervention should be made.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

What it seems to me that we need is some sort of rates tribunal which will have power to consider the charges of all the nationalised industries—because they all link up. I put that forward merely as a suggestion, because so many people have said on both sides of the House that we do not want the House of Commons settling fares or the price of a bus ticket. If the House of Commons does not do it, who else is to do it? At the moment it is these nationalised monopolies and the men who sit on their boards.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

The Transport Tribunal has nothing to do with the British Transport Commission.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

It is a strange sort of Tribunal that has nothing to do with the Transport Commission. However, I agree it is not employed by the British Transport Commission. But the Transport Tribunal's powers are limited by the Transport Act, which says that if a charges scheme is laid before the Transport Tribunal it is bound to be given effect to if the Transport Commission can prove that, unless it is given effect to, there will be losses. That is a considerable limitation on the powers of the Transport Tribunal, and I say that the Transport Tribunal is not a fit and proper body to decide whether Londoners or people anywhere else should pay higher fares.

Photo of Mr Joseph Sparks Mr Joseph Sparks , Acton

They are business men, anyway.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

I dare say they are, but there are a great many other considerations to be taken into account. The whole national economy ought to be taken into account. Either the House of Commons must have some overriding powers over these great monopolies, or else there must be some rates tribunal which can have power over the rates and charges of all these great monopolies. Of course, the Conservative Government now can take certain steps to break down some of these monopolies either by de-nationalisation or de-centralisation. But either it must establish some central rates tribunal; or else the House of Commons has got to accept direct responsibility. That is what we are doing here, and that is making hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House feel very uncomfortable. If they were to support the Government Motion tonight they would feel that they were somehow sabotaging their own legislation put through four or five years ago; and yet, clearly, they are forced to take some action as a result of the complaints of their constituents.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

What has the hon. Gentleman done?

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

I have taken a great deal of action in one way or another. I have done my best to appear before the Transport Tribunal to speak for certain sections of the people. I am making this speech now, and I have done a great deal in other directions as well. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), whose constituency, I believe, is about a twopenny bus ride from here, or a threepenny—[HON. MEMBERS: "Fourpenny."] A fourpenny ride now? Well, the hon. and gallant Gentleman is very lucky to be able to get to his constituency for 4d. I cannot get to Heston and Isleworth for 4d. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Manchester."] It is no good anybody from Manchester complaining that the fares have gone up. We have managed to save the people in Manchester. The people in Heston and Isleworth want to be treated as well as the people in Manchester.

I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give us some good news for the people who live on the outskirts of London. I hope also that when the Department has its discussions with the British Transport Commission it will look very closely into all the new fares. I have given one example already of how I believe that the London Transport Executive has not given effect accurately to its own proposals.

I can also, for instance, give an example of a fare between Hounslow and Brentford. The distance, according to the railway time table, is 2¾ miles, or 5½ miles there and back. There is a large notice at Hounslow station saying that the new fares will be raised on the basis of 1¾d. per mile single and 1½d. per mile return. I work it out that the new fare should be 8¼d.; or, if they do not like farthings and want to bring the fare to the nearest penny, the fare should be 9d. In fact it is 10d. There seems to be something wrong there. That is only one example of many that I could have quoted. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend and his Department will examine very closely, if they can manage to do so, all these new fares, to make sure that the Transport Commission has given an accurate interpretation of its own charges scheme.

8.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Percy Morris Mr Percy Morris , Swansea West

I am sorry to have to suggest that the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) appeared to be very much more heated than reasonable. I will, in the course of my speech, endeavour to reply to a few of his queries in order to help him in future debates on transport.

I listened to the Home Secretary for an hour this afternoon, and I must confess that I was bitterly disappointed. If asked to summarise what he said, I could do so in a very few sentences. He said, in effect: "We have imposed this standstill in order to stifle public criticism. Secondly, we have done so regardless of the consequences to the B.T.C. and their business or to anybody else." He then astonished me by making the really foolish statement that the railways have a monopoly in transport in the same speech as he said that there were no fewer than 800,000 C licences, apart from the A and B licences. What sort of monopoly that can be, I cannot imagine.

The Prime Minister, replying to a question after his statement on Monday last, suggested that the difficulties confronting the British Transport Commission are due to nationalisation and the implementation of the Transport Act, 1947. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Presumably those hon. Members opposite who ejaculate "Hear, hear" share that opinion, and I should like to offer them a few facts to disprove it. On previous occasions I have endeavoured to submit statistical and factual information to prove that the history of the railways demonstrates that nationalisation has been their salvation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that politics have now been introduced into transport. Who introduced them? Gladstone, on 5th February, 1844, introduced a Measure for a Royal Commission, and every Royal Commission since then has recommended the nationalisation of transport.

Photo of Mr Percy Morris Mr Percy Morris , Swansea West

The hon. Gentleman has interrupted me on previous occasions to such little effect that it really is a waste of time giving way to him.

Every Royal Commission since that time has recommended nationalisation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "Let us have a committee with a few business people on it." It is because of our experience of business people in transport when they had a monopoly that we wish to adhere to the policy of socialisation. The State has had to intervene more than once. By the Railways (Agreement) Act. 1935, the State raised £26,190,000 at 2½ per cent. and lent it to the Great Western, the L.M.S., the L.N.E.R. and the Southern Railway at the same rate. About the same time the London Electric Transport Finance Corporation raised over £39 million for a similar purpose at the same rate of interest, presumably with a view to putting their houses in order.

Within four years the Transport Advisory Council, an entirely independent body, advised the Tory Government of that day that the financial position of the railways, which had for some time been very unsatisfactory, had recently deteriorated to such an extent as to give rise to acute concern for the future stability of the companies. Government control on the outbreak of the Second World War came to the rescue of the companies.

The House should also remember that in 1938, the last year before Government control, over £200 million of ordinary stock of the old L.M.S., L.N.E.R. and Southern Railway paid no dividends at all; and the Great Western were able to pay only ½ per cent. on £43 million of similar stock. That was under business management—the committee of business people coming to the State for charitable aid over and over again.

I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to contrast that with the present position of the stockholders, who are now guaranteed 3 per cent. as the result of the Transport Act, 1947. Compare that with the position in 1935, when they were saying: "We cannot give dividends except for preference and debenture shares. We shall have to get some State aid. We will impose a 5 per cent. cut on the wages and salaries of the staff, which will help." That is the business method of which we are fearful, and which we are determined to oppose tooth and nail.

By way of contrast, in 1947, the last year under private enterprise, the railways were £16 million short of operating costs, which represented a loss arrived at before any question of dividends. In 1948, under nationalisation, they had a surplus of £30 million over operating costs; in 1949, of £20 million, and in 1950, of £40 million. According to the Home Secretary today, the figures for 1951 are expected to show a further increase. Indeed, we should be in clover but for this burden of interest.

This new situation has come about despite the tremendous increase in the costs of various commodities used by the railways. I will give a few typical examples: canvas, 221 per cent. increase; general timber, 225 per cent.; sleepers, 344 per cent.; and many other items such as coal, linseed oil, India rubber and nonferrous metals. The Railway Executive are the best customers so far as these goods are concerned. The Railway Executive have effected substantial economies amounting now to £14 million per year and there has been a reduction of 55,000 in the number of staff employed. I repeat that the heaviest burden is that of interest—nearly £39 million per year—and, speaking from memory, railwaymen have to earn about £26 million of that money before they can expect to share in it themselves.

I repeat what I have tried to make clear before. We have never suggested that interest should not be paid, but we very strongly maintain that the burden should be readjusted. It would be a simple matter to prove to a Royal Commission or any comparable body that if equity is to prevail there must be a new approach to the financial problems of the B.T.C.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

The hon. Gentleman is saying that he does not object to interest being paid as compensation, but he objects to the rate of interest. Surely he would agree that when one enters into a bargain one must stick by that bargain, particularly when one has been forced to enter into that bargain.

Photo of Mr Percy Morris Mr Percy Morris , Swansea West

Why does the hon. Gentleman deliberately misunderstand what I say? I thought that I had made it clear that we have never asked that the bargain should be broken. In fact, I think that it was a reasonable bargain, and I think we ought to adhere to it. We can adhere to it and still maintain decent railway fares and freight charges, and provide decent conditions for our people, if there is readjustment of the burden so far as the Railway Executive are concerned, but the Government must take a reasonable share of that burden.

I should like to emphasise that we realise that increases in fares and freight charges are undesirable and are bound to react upon the cost of living, but if the industry is not allowed to charge an economic price for the service it renders, we must assist in some other way. During the last four years, no one can deny that transport users have been given transport at less than cost. I say on behalf of the transport workers that we live in the same world as other folk, and we have to pay the increased cost of coal, gas, electricity, postal and telephone rates; but when it was demonstrated that these increases were inevitable we did not hold mass meetings all over the country, engage in propaganda and protests and say that it was a lot of robbery. We were prepared to examine the facts and meet the position. Why do we not treat employees in the transport industry in the same way and give them a square deal?

It would not surprise me if hon. Members opposite regarded me as a hostile witness, possessing a bias in favour of nationalised transport. They are quite right; I do. Let me cite other authorities who may be a little more acceptable. Some years ago, the Prime Minister was addressing the Dundee Chamber of Commerce. He said: It might pay the State to run railways at a loss to develop industries and agriculture. Then we have Sir Claude D. Gibb, C.B.E., D.Sc., mining engineer, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He read a paper to the Greenock Philosophical Society in January, 1949, and he said: Is it too much to hope that there may yet arise a statesman, a scientist, or an engineer, with sufficient vision, sufficient power, sufficient courage to realise that no longer can Britain go on wasting that most precious of our few remaining assets—coal. Now is the moment to integrate these four great industries (coal, electricity supply, transport and gas), all of them depending on our dwindling and most important national asset—coal. If we miss this chance of integration, it will never occur again. In 1949 a book was published entitled "British Railways and Economic Recovery." It was written by Mr. Kenneth H. Johnston, M.A., a member of the Liberal Committee on Transport, under the chairmanship of Mr. B. Seebohm Rowntree. Mr. Kenneth Johnston had a very stirring indictment against the Tories for their failure to handle transport, their failure to electrify, and their readiness to surrender to the landlord.

If the speech delivered by Mr. Philip Fothergill during the weekend expressed the Liberal point of view, I can well believe that the Liberal Party will never come back into power again. It was the most stupid, ill-informed statement on transport that any public man has delivered during the past 10 years, and I beg the Liberal Whip, whom I am delighted to see in his place, to take Mr. Fothergill in hand and give him a little elementary education.

Hon. Members opposite may not accept the authorities that I have already quoted, but I will give one or two more. In 1937 the late Lord Stamp—no Socialist—at the annual meeting of the L.M.S. company said: We must now renew our efforts to secure the highly necessary co-ordination of road and rail function in the public interest. Sir Alfred Read, presiding at the annual meeting of Coast Lines, Limited, said: I look forward to a complete re-organisation in the very near future of all forms of internal transport. … Mr. William Whitelaw, chairman of the L.N.E.R., said: My reasons for wishing to see state ownership are as simple as would be the actual transaction. … I have also no doubt that eventual State ownership is inevitable. There has never been a time when there has been greater need for a general reconsideration of the whole transport problem. This, as it affects both rail and road, must be regarded not in piecemeal fashion but as a great national responsibility. Mr. William Whitelaw, Lord Stamp, Sir Alfred Read and people like that have never been found in the ranks of the Socialist Party. They have dealt with the matter purely as experts in transport, and that is the only way in which to deal with the problem.

My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), quoted the letter in "The Times" written by Sir Eustace Missenden. Sir Eustace was for years the general manager of the Southern Railway and he was the first chairman of the Railway Executive, and he makes it abundantly clear that he does not regard it as a political problem. He makes it clear that he is not interested in it as a political problem but is concerned about the trade and commerce of Great Britain.

We have heard a good deal in recent days about co-ordinating Ministers and we are waiting to see the fruits of their service. "Modern Transport" recently had an article which said: However much one may try to think otherwise, and however passionately one may believe in the ideal of private enterprise, there is no escaping the fact that co-ordination of transport is essential in the modern State. The editor then added that he had before him a letter written by the Minister of War Transport on 18th March, 1944, and that the periodical had been asked by the Minister to publish the letter. The letter said: Time and war have shown how necessary it is to regard the various means of transport not as a collection of independent and competing units but as component parts of a vital national service. I hope that the same sense of unity will persist among operators when the war is over, for it is only by retaining this conception of transport that we shall provide the cheap and efficient service on which the restoration of trade, and more especially the export trade, depends. That was a letter sent by the co-ordination Minister who was recently appointed by the Prime Minister. I should like to ask him whether he has changed his mind, and if so, when and on what basis.

In pursuit of other duties I have had something to do with transport in Ireland, and I know that the railways in both Northern and Southern Ireland have got into very low water indeed. In fact, they face bankruptcy. They decided that the only thing to do was to give notice to the staff that they could not continue to employ them any longer. After they issued the notices, they discovered that unless they were careful they would have no transport services in either Northern Ireland or Eire. After a little cogitation, they were forced to the conclusion that if the trade and commerce of Ireland was to be maintained, they must look at transport as a social service.

On this subject there were no artificial barriers between North and South. It is, I think, the only subject on which the Governments of Northern Ireland and Eire have reached a unanimous decision. They saw that if they were to conserve their trade and commerce they would have to deal with transport as one unit. That is the position in this country and I beg of hon. Members—I do not need to prevail on my hon. Friends on this side of the House—to realise that we cannot possibly run this great transport industry, involving the livelihood of one million people and providing the life blood of industry, from a debating Chamber or even a Committee room upstairs.

The men who are in charge of the transport industry are men who, with very few exceptions, were recruited from the ranks of the other side. It would be dishonourable on my part to deny them the credit of achieving during the past four years a miracle in transport. If it were not for their ability, integrity and initiative, transport in this country today would be absolutely in chaos. The Chairman of the Transport Commission has 40 years' experience and is independent of politics. Other members have given a lifetime of service to the previous railway organisations, and they and the former general managers have, if anything, a bias on the side of the party opposite.

Long ago they were forced to the conclusion that if transport is to be dealt with thoroughly and efficiently it must be taken out of the cockpit of politics. It was not the Labour Party which brought it into politics. I would remind the House that it was in politics long before the Labour Party had a voice in the government of this country. By the Transport Act, 1947, we tried to lift it out of politics and sought to have it dealt with on sound, honest, commercial lines. We said, "We will give you five to seven years to try and get it working properly." Did any hon. Member opposite imagine that on 1st January, 1948, we could merge, without the slightest difficulty, five great railway corporations which had been working with entirely different practices and varied and different methods and mould them into one without trial and error of some kind?

Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to make as much as they possibly can of the transport industry as a whole, for the recovery of the trade and commerce of Great Britain. If the party opposite continue to belittle the efforts of the men who have been directing and controlling the railway industry and speak patronisingly of the employees in it, they are storing up trouble for themselves, which they will deserve.

I commend the Amendment to the House and I ask the House to accept the facts I have submitted. From my experience I can say that the nationalisation of transport in this country was inevitable, and if it is destroyed now the Government will leave behind a more difficult task for those who follow after them in the years to come.

8.50 p.m.

Photo of Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer , Worthing

We always listen with very great interest to the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) and we have heard with attention the speech which he has just concluded, and which could have been a Second Reading speech on any of the nationalisation Acts. He has been defending nationalisation, and almost accusing us of being about to de-nationalise the railways. In fact, that is not so. We are here on a non-political basis to endeavour to make nationalisation of the railways work. In my view, it is a non-political matter. I could not understand his remarks about interest rates. I thought I heard him say that interest rates should be reviewed.

Photo of Mr Percy Morris Mr Percy Morris , Swansea West

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman so early in his speech, but I did not suggest that interest rates should be reviewed. I suggested that the financial arrangements of the B.T.C. should be reviewed and that the duty of finding money for this, that or the other, should be spread more evenly.

Photo of Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer , Worthing

With that point of view I entirely agree, but there have been hon. Members, and one particular hon. Member who spoke quite recently, who said that these interest rates were too high and that the compensation paid was too much. Let us realise and remember that a very large number of the people who hold this Government stock are not the original railway shareholders. This is ordinary Government stock put on the market in the ordinary way, and a very large number of those who hold it now are not the original shareholders at all.

I am not going to defend the standstill order. It has been very ably spoken to and defended by other hon. Members already, so I do not want to waste time on that. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), asked why the standstill had not been applied to London Transport. Let us remind ourselves of the fact that the Commission announced the increases in London Transport fares precisely four days before they came into operation. There was not a lot of time to do much about them. In the case of raising the rail fares outside London there was time for something to be done. I am convinced that the Government have taken the right course in putting a standstill on them until further inquiries can be made.

I come to the main point of my speech. We have been arguing whether or not the Government should have stepped in. Some hon. Members have been arguing that fares should go up. I agree that fares will have to go up by a certain amount. The point under discussion is whether they have not been put up far too much. The point that has not been discussed is why it is necessary for the fares to be raised. We all know the quick answer to that. It is that costs have risen. That is where I begin to find complaint. The root of the whole of this problem is two-fold. I am certain that nationalisation has to be made to work. It has come to stay, but the machine at the moment is too centralised. No one human brain can cope with all the details of a machine of that size so as to make it work on an economic basis. The sooner we do what we said in our Election manifesto and de-centralise, the better, so that one man has less to do and to think about.

In the last fortnight I have spoken to a very large number of railwaymen. I am going to reveal what they said. They were railwaymen in all ranks of the nationalised industry.

The other matter is the question of the uneconomic operation of the railways. The first reaction of any nationalised industry when costs are increased is to pass them on to the user. That is not the first reaction of private enterprise competing with other private enterprise. They may have to pass on some of the cost ultimately, but that is not their first reaction. Their first step is to ask, "Where can we economise? We must not put up the cost of these goods if we can help it." Not so the nationalised industries. They take the easiest course and the unfortunate consumer is the loser.

One hon. Member opposite referred to the two sides of the industry. I loathe that term. I thought we should get rid of it under nationalisation. There are not two sides of industry any longer. Surely we are all one team working towards one object, the salvation of this country. The sooner we start to talk on those lines, the better. Apparently the two sides of industry according to the hon. Gentleman are the Commission and the workers. The hon. Gentleman did not say a word about the consumers. Yet surely the consumers have to be taken into consideration in these matters.

Since every speaker today has mentioned his own constituency, I shall mention, mine. There are large numbers of people in my constituency who were encouraged to move out of London in order to avoid its congestion, and the carrot held out to them was the cheap concession rate. I think it is wrong that those people who are finding it very difficult to carry on should have an added burden imposed on them when they have done precisely what they were asked to do.

Photo of Mr David Jones Mr David Jones , Hartlepools, The

The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that when the Commission have to increase fares they do not look around and reduce expenses. Is he aware that from 1st January, 1948, to 30th December, 1950, that is, in two years, the costs have been reduced by 2s. per train mile representing a total annual saving of between £35 and £40 million?

Photo of Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer , Worthing

I agree that is creditable but does the hon. Gentleman also realise that in their report the Commission say that, due to over-staffing, their costs have gone up by £1 million? I was coming to that later, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the lead in on that point.

As I have said, I am speaking on a subject about which I am not an expert. I hope those who are experts and have served the railways so well will listen to me with the same attention as I give to them when they speak about Army matters. In order to avail myself of certain facts for this debate, I have spent every railway journey in the last fortnight asking people what they thought. I went up to Peterborough on an express train which was crammed and in which I had to stand for a long time. Coming back I was put on a train from Peterborough, by mistake I think, the 1.29 to be exact. It stopped at every station. It took four and a half hours to get to London, whereas the express took one and a half hours.

How many people were there on that train which included a buffet? There were 10 railwaymen travelling back from their jobs and eight passengers. I asked if the train was always as empty and I was told that it was. That train costs over 2s. per head per mile to run as against just over ½d., for the express. There is something wrong there. Every one of those people to whom I spoke said, "Here is where the money is going. What a waste." I will tell the hon. Gentlemen why it was empty. It was stopping at every station and people will not pay to go by train from the third station down the line to the fifth. Instead they take the bus at half the price. That is the one thing which I want to stress and urge today. We have got to look at this from a much longer-term view.

Photo of Mr Percy Collick Mr Percy Collick , Birkenhead

Did the hon. and gallant Member select a slow train, which stopped at every station from Peterborough to London, for making a journey to London? It is difficult to realise what condition the hon. and gallant Member must have been in.

Photo of Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer , Worthing

I tell the hon. Member, for his slightly discourteous innuendo, that it was in the morning that I went to Peterborough by the express train, that I was there for about two hours, and that I caught the 1.29 train back. If he cares to look at the timetable, the hon. Member will see that the 1.29 stops at every station from Peterborough to London. I was put on it inadvertently by my host, who thought that it was a fast train. That was not a very relevant interruption.

I spoke with loco men. They were keen to talk to me, and said that before nationalisation there was one inspector in their loco shop and that he knew his job, but that now there were six, who did not know their job, and who were all being paid more than the one fellow was paid before nationalisation.

They said that in the old days, they could inspect an engine and see whether the leaves of the springs were in order, but that it was no good looking at them now because they were so covered in grime that it was impossible to tell. "We did have a right of refusing to take an engine," they said, "but we do not have that any longer. Men have been graded up from class 3 to class 1 as shunters, but they know nothing whatever about shunting." They quoted one man who had spent his entire day shunting one engine. These are just tiny straws in the wind, but "mony a mickle mak a muckle," and adding all these things together, they make a considerable difference to the cost of running a railway.

The train on the return journey was, for some reason, of a different category. It was a train which goes to Peterborough, turns round and then comes back. There were two guards, one who took the train to Peterborough and the other who brought it back. The former was sitting in a third class carriage. The train had taken men to do a few hours' work on a railway station up the line and they were going back again, wasting about four or five man hours while sitting in the carriage. They said that the work could have been put out to private contract locally at the station and could have been done in half the time and at half the price.

In view of that sort of thing—I do not say that a committee or a commission should be appointed—the Railway Executive should look into these matters and see where economies can be made. If this was done, the railways as a whole could be run a great deal more cheaply. As has been said, it is only £2½ million that we are talking about today. I should like to see some of the people I used to know, those who helped to get the bridge over the Rhine in under 36 hours, when a civilian firm might have taken three months; I should like to see some of those methods now.

As far as I can see, there is a tremendous waste in many of the branch line systems. What we are doing is to boost an out-of-date form of transport which is obsolescent. I am quite aware that certain railways are essential from the strategic viewpoint and for heavy goods haulage, and that certain express lines are essential, and we have already had a description from the other side of the House of the out-of-date way in which engines and coaches are constructed.

Those lines which should remain should, after a proper inquiry, be converted to Diesel or Diesel-electric working as quickly as possible, so that we do not have only the present 7 per cent. efficiency from our very precious coal. I believe that those branch lines which are discovered to be redundant or unpaying should be rubbed out and tarmac roads put down instead, so that a cheaper and more efficient form of transport can be allowed to use them. Having done that, the transport would have to pay a good deal heavier for licences for the privilege of using those roads.

We have got to think again. People who keep saying that the railways are going on exactly as they have gone on for 110 years are producing the same sort of argument as people might have produced when the railways were first introduced in order to try to maintain—

Photo of Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer , Worthing

Let me finish—the old stage coach.

One other point on this matter and then I will give way to the hon. Member. The figures are here and prove exactly what I am saying. In 1938 the passenger journeys were 1,237 million and in 1948 they were 996 million. Those figures speak for themselves. The reason is that transport by rail has become so expensive that people are using more and more the more efficient and cheaper form of transport, the motor road. That figure alone is enough to show the trend.

If we are to retain matters as they are, we should try reducing the fares and see what happens; surely that would be more sensible. If the railways are competing with road transport, they should under-cut road transport charges; that is the way to get people back on to trains again. If we started charging the same fares on the railways as the buses from Newcastle to London, there would soon be a difference. But the precise opposite is being done.

Photo of Mr John Hynd Mr John Hynd , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Will the hon. and gallant Member enlighten us? He said that the Commission in their Report said that the trouble was due to overstaffing. I have the Report before me and, on page 35, it refers to the number of staff as 888,000 a reduction during the year of 6,941, and, taking into account the additional road passenger undertakings on a comparable basis, there was a reduction of 20,986. On British Railways the reduction was about 55,000, representing a reduction of 8 per cent. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member can refer to the part of the report he has in mind?

Photo of Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer , Worthing

I have not actually the line in the report from which I was quoting with me, but what the hon. Member fails to realise is that the comparison I made was with staff before the war, whereas he is taking the comparison from one year to the next. I was dealing with the size of the staff necessary to run the railways since the war.

I will make what I consider to be a suggestion of what should be done. Hon. Members have suggested that it is right to put up railway fares and that it is right that the road transport should not be allowed to compete with railways and that everything should be done to boost the present railway system as it exists. I believe that is a short-sighted policy and that I should be proved right, possibly not in the next four or five years, but eventually.

With the atomic age coming along and rediffusion of power and so on, we shall get an even cheaper form of transport by road on rubber wheels than we ever had by railway. Until we tackle the problem on that basis, we shall never get a solution to our difficulties. Our whole economic troubles stem from the eternal vicious circle of wages chasing costs, not only in nationalised industries but in other industries, and until we find the solution to that problem we are only playing with it and administering aspirins to cure a really serious disease.

9.8 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Freda Corbet Mrs Freda Corbet , Camberwell Peckham

The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has brought this debate into proper perspective. As he said, nationalisation of passenger transport has come to stay and must be worked. That is a relief, after listening to some hon. Members opposite. One hon. Member did not even know the fare to Brixton. He suggested that the fare might be 4d., not knowing that the 4d. stage no longer exists.

I hope that the Transport Commission will also note what the hon. and gallant Member has said. It occurs to me that if he had come across the various misdoings of the Transport Commission of which he spoke he might, as a public representative with some concern for the success of nationalisation, have inquired of the Transport Commission what the situation was, ask for an explanation, and if it was unsatisfactory have gone to the Minister about it. Perhaps he has done so, I do not know, but I know that in those circumstances I should have done so. It is the duty of every hon. Member of this House to try to see that our nationalised undertakings work.

I am sure that the Transport Commission will be grateful for the suggestions which the hon. and gallant Member has made in his speech. Not that the Commission does not occasionally think about these things. I have no doubt that these problems have exercised the mind of the Commission for four years, and that the Commission probably knows a good deal more about these things than even the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing.

I felt that the hon. and gallant Member had made out a case for a review. The Deputy-Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon that much as we on this side of the House are committed with the principle of nationalisation, we are not averse to a review of the progress of a nationalised undertaking. We are not averse to looking at the need for any changes that may become apparent over a period of time, and, therefore, we should welcome a complete review.

The Amendment suggests a review of the financial basis. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris), in a most able speech, completely vindicated the case for nationalisation and has made clear the achievements of the Transport Commission. He made a definite suggestion about what might be done about the financial basis. I am speaking now largely as a Londoner, representing largely the point of view of the L.C.C., and if I were pressing for a review, I should want something more than just a review of the financial basis.

I believe that London is in a unique position. The L.C.C. took great pains in appearing before the Tribunal at the time when the fare increases were being considered. They briefed counsel and took infinite pains to ensure that every fact was laid bare. The conclusion to which the L.C.C. came was that London was being unfairly burdened as compared with the rest of the country. That may not be completely so, but we should at least like an investigation to make sure what the position is.

We were told at the Tribunal that London's increases were not as great as those outside, but on examination it appears that the basis on which the figures given to us were calculated included in London the road and the rail services but outside London included only the rail services. We are well aware that road fares outside London have not increased to the same extent as they have done inside London. In fact a number of undertakings have, I understand, made no increase at all until this past year. [An HON. MEMBER: "Private enterprise."] I will deal with that point in a moment.

Quit a number of them have made a very slight increase indeed. An hon. Member opposite has just intervened with the comment "private enterprise." I do not know. I do know, however, that some of the municipal enterprises—and they are not private enterprise—are in the category of concerns in respect of which there have been very slight changes of fares. So the comparison is not between private and public enterprise, but it may be between the large-scale and smaller scale enterprises, I do not know. It is sufficient to say that Imperial Chemicals seems to be quite content with a large scale enterprise—

Photo of Mrs Freda Corbet Mrs Freda Corbet , Camberwell Peckham

It is not open to the same scrutiny as are nationalized concerns. Perhaps if we could look at the accounts there might be some inefficiency revealed, but the point I was making was that they seemed to be content with large-scale enterprise.

The London County Council was not content to be told that the charges in London were lesser, or had been increased to a lesser extent than charges outside London. I am sure they are right. We realize that the Londoner has no alternative but to ride to his work. In the provinces it is possible to cycle to work, or even to walk. If the charges on the railway are too high people will be diverted to the roads. In London that is not possible because the whole system is integrated and the fares are uniform.

Hardship is being created in London Particularly because of the Government policy—which is a very good policy and with which I agree—of shifting people from the center of London outside, and putting them eventually near their work, so that then this problem will not arise.

Meanwhile many people have gone a great many miles outside and have to get to London to their work. Unless we want to see this whole policy destroyed we shall have to give careful consideration to their problem. Obviously what people will do is to return to London as soon as possible. That is not easy because there are no houses for them. I am afraid that they will go to their friends or relatives. It will mean that houses will become overcrowded and that these people will then be adding their names to the housing lists. It will also make it increasingly difficult to get people into the out-county estates.

I have referred to the position of London as being particularly difficult. We have a problem to solve which, I suppose, faces no other city. It must be a very hard nut for the Transport Executive to crack. As soon as it appeared to the County Council that such charges were going to operate, they began to get anxious and asked that a Select Committee might be set up to make this investigation. They gave written evidence to the Consultative Committee and they have now asked, after the standsill order, for a review of the scheme in London. They still ask for a committee of some kind or other to review the whole position.

We are also worried about what would appear to be sheer ineptitude on the part of the Minister. It is all very well to make some increase in charges, but to couple this increase with the reorganisation of the fare stages and to present people with such an enormous jump in their fares was something less than tactful. It resulted in showers of protests. [HON. MEMBERS: "That was not the Minister."] I understand that the Minister had every opportunity of being represented at the Tribunal. The former Minister of Transport said that it was always his practice to be so represented, and I am sure that he would have been so closely in touch as not to have allowed such an inept and tactless thing to occur. That would have been done beforehand, and there would have been no need for the Prime Minister to step in. The result is that I receive letters like the following: Who gave authority to the Transport Commission, or to the London Transport Executive the powers to turn one of London's oldest river bridges, namely, Southwark Bridge, into a toll bridge? The reason for this inquiry is because the fare stage, which once went over the bridge, now stops this side of it, and, since it was a 3d. fare, it now costs 2d. to go over the bridge.

I have read the report of the Consultative Committee and I can see their case, but when the 4d., 7d. and 10d. fares are abolished the enormous jumps in fares which one has to pay comes as a great shock. It is all very well to talk about the gentleman who lives at Southend and who has to pay unexpected increases. I can assure the hon. Gentleman opposite that the same thing happens with every person who has to pay an increased fare at the present time. When fares jump to perhaps half as much again, anybody with a limited income finds that a very difficult thing to face.

I understand that in London the average family fare is now calculated to be about 11s. a week as compared with 4s. 6d. in the rest of the country. Therefore, the House can see how disturbed we in the London County Council are concerning our Londoners. We are the more disturbed because, although we now anticipate some slight mitigation—and it can only be slight—from the figures quoted by the Home Secretary this afternoon—some £2,500,000 for the whole of the country, of which London's share, I suppose, will represent only a few hundred thousand pounds—next year some extra charges are to come into being.

For instance, the sub-standard fare from the Downham Estate to Victoria which pre-1950 was 8d. is now 1s. After 2nd May, it will be 1s. 5d., and after May, 1953, it will possibly be 2s., that is, three times as much as the original fare, and those increases will have come about in less than three years. That is actually the London case. It does not detract in any way from my support of the scheme of nationalisation. I subscribe to my party's point of view. Nationalisation is not only desirable but essential, and one of the things I am concerned about is whether it would not help us to get on more quickly with the acquisition of the remaining road passenger transport. I should like that matter to be reviewed. If hon. Members opposite were entirely impartial and wanted to make a success of nationalisation, they would also bring under review the question of whether road haulage ought not to be integrated and to remain a part of the nationalised industry.

9.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

It is always a great delight to speak after the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet), because she is always full of sweet reasonableness. I agree with her that the nationalised transport system has come to say, and our problem is to see how we can make it more efficient. I intervene in the debate for only a short time, and I intervene because a great number of my constituents have suffered grievously from the recent fare increases. I estimate that about 30 per cent. of the constituents of the Sevenoaks division travel into London, and naturally they are somewhat affected by the recent increases.

The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), castigated the Transport Commission for what he described as a failure in public relations—a failure to make the great British public, the public of London, understand why some increases were necessary and to what they were due. I think I am correctly interpreting him when I say that he said they had failed to do that job, and I agree with him. He went on to say, since there is a deficit, how is it to be met? He mentioned the figure of some £2,500,000. I am not quite sure what the figure is for London, but obviously it is less than that. As I understand it, the figure is between £1 million and £1,500,000 if we even out the anomalies.

What worries me is whether the London Transport Executive are really efficient and able to cope with the problem with which they are presented. In introducing the debate the Home Secretary said he hoped we should be able to see that economies were effected in the operation of the nationalised transport undertaking and also that there would be increased efficiency. But there is one thing which worries me, as a director of an advertising agency, and I am certain that once it reaches my constituents it will worry them, too. It is not only that it is important that the Transport Executive should learn how to operate more economically and more efficiently—and this applies particularly to the London Transport Executive; but what worries me a great deal is that they have thrown away revenue.

I know that hon. Members opposite do not like advertising. They think it is a tool of the capitalist system and of private enterprise. But I ask myself, as my constituents must, why the London Transport Executive have to ban advertising inside buses, which is what they have done. By so doing they have lost revenue at a very conservative figure, of some £300,000 a year. I am quite certain that my constituents in Sevenoaks would far rather look at advertisements inside buses and pay lower fares than they would adhere to a noble Lord's view of what the British public want inside buses.

It is that attitude which worries me—the attitude of "I know better." It is not a gentleman from Whitehall this time who knows better, but it is a gentleman who thinks he knows what the public require better than they do. He is quite willing to lose £300,000 a year in revenue from advertisements inside buses—which are a delight and a glory and a joy, to my mind, although I have an interest in the subject.

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

Let me finish the point. I feel that the British public would rather see advertisements inside London buses and have a smaller increase in fares. It is this attitude towards the British public which worries me and which makes me say we ought to hold a review of the operations of these transport undertakings and nationalised undertakings. I support the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, when he said, "Let us make sure that they are operating efficiently." There are many things which worry hon. Members on both sides of the House about the operation of these nationalised undertakings, and, speaking for my constituents in Sevenoaks not least is the operation of the London Transport Executive.

9.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Hynd Mr John Hynd , Sheffield, Attercliffe

I am rather surprised by the line taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers), from which one would imagine that the whole of this difficulty had been caused by some inefficiency in London Transport, for which there has been no evidence whatever produced. The only suggestion that the hon. Member made, as far as I could gather, was that the London Transport Executive should not have stopped advertising in the buses. I am surprised to hear that it has. I was not aware of it. If it is so, I question whether that has brought about the crisis which has caused the Government's intervention.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

But there is no point in it.

Photo of Mr John Hynd Mr John Hynd , Sheffield, Attercliffe

I do not want to repeat all the arguments that have been used about the Government's intervention in this case, about the technicalities or the illegality of it, but to go into the wider aspects of the question of what has brought about this situation, and whether the Government have dealt with it properly.

I should like to ask, in the first place, what are the sets of principles which are applied to those two great national assets—those vital contributions to our national economy and our national defence—agriculture and transport? On the one hand, when the agricultural industry is in difficulties, millions of pounds are poured out by the Government without any question—£52 million this year.

In the other case, not only is no money given to assist the industry, but the Government step in to prevent the industry from operating even at charges comparable with charges operating in private enterprise. It will take some explaining to convince the country that the Government are, in fact, operating on any set of principles at all—except the principle on which their party stand, namely, to subsidise private enterprise and destroy public enterprise.

I would remind the Government that the 1947 Act, even though it was brought in by a Labour Government, was carried by this House, and that it was, indeed, the culmination, not of political propaganda entirely, but of a whole series of transport crises running over the last 30 years, with Royal Commission after Royal Commission trying to find ways and means of keeping our railways solvent. It was for that reason that the railways were nationalised within the general nationalisation of transport, and the basis of that nationalisation policy, the basis which was insisted upon, indeed, above all things by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, was that the industry should be enabled to pay its way, taking one year with another. What the Government are doing today is preventing that industry from doing the very thing they insisted that it should do when it was nationalised.

It is obvious that there must be some clear explanation of why this action has been taken at this time. It was stated very clearly from our Front Bench that nothing was done when London's fares were increased, and that it was not until after the county council elections that anything was done; and I think that it is a legitimate assumption that the intervention has been made only as a result of those elections and in anticipation of the local elections.

What is it the Government are proposing to do to meet the position? They have stopped fare increases, and we have it from the Government today that there is no intention whatever of meeting the deficit by a Government payment of any kind. Well, how is the transport industry going to pay its way?—unless it is that, after the local elections, the Government are then going to increase fares, or have a much wider field of increased charges which will have to be borne by the people who, by this intervention, the Government hope to persuade to vote for them in the local elections.

The Government cannot have it any other way. They must either subsidise, directly or indirectly, this industry or condemn it to run at a loss for all time, and condemn the employees in the industry to live on a sub-standard compared with the standards of other workers in the country; or, after the local elections, they must agree to an increase in fares at least to the amount recommended by the Tribunal.

This financial difficulty of our transport, and particularly of our railways, is no new situation. I have spent most of my life on the railways, and I remember very clearly having arguments in 1925 with my superintendent about the financial position of the railways, when he was pointing out, in defending the proposals of the company to reduce wages, that for many years past the ordinary shareholders of the company by whom I was then employed, the Caledonian, had received no dividends. For a long time before the last war it was the normal thing for the ordinary shareholders in the railway companies to receive no or very little dividend.

It may interest the House to know what the average rate of interest on ordinary railway shares was in pre-war years compared with today. In 1933 the average rate was .76 per cent., and it remained about that level until 1938, when it was down to .58 per cent. Since 1948, under nationalisation it has gone up to 3 per cent., which I make about 600 per cent. increase in the dividend on ordinary shares. If that is an uneconomic proposition, if that proves that the railway companies are losing money, then it is a peculiar way of assessing the viability of an industry, and an entirely new one, in relation to the practice in private enterprise.

The fact is that neither the railway system nor the Transport Commission are allowed to be viable propositions. They have had imposed upon them certain restrictions as a direct result of Government action—and I do not exclude the previous Government from a certain amount of responsibility. I take, first of all, the burden of compensation. Hon. Members opposite have sought to justify compensation. I am not criticising compensation as a principle, but the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), in defending compensation, asked at whose expense compensation is paid. I say that, at the moment, to a great extent it is at the expense of the railway worker. Whereas before the war the ordinary railway shareholders were lucky if they got ½ per cent. dividend, today they are guaranteed by the Government, by Parliament, 3 per cent. year by year, irrespective of the prosperity of the industry, irrespective of the income or the profitability of the industry.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North

The party opposite did that.

Photo of Mr John Hynd Mr John Hynd , Sheffield, Attercliffe

I said a few moments ago that I do not not exculpate the previous Government. I am talking about the burden on the industry. It is a burden carried by no private concern in this or any other country. Irrespective of the earning capacity of the industry from year to year, they have to meet, without exception, a guaranteed rate of interest for all time until the final redemption year.

I suggest that this is at least partly a public responsibility and that it should not be entirely the responsibility of the industry. I suggest therefore that the industry should be required to pay that part of the compensation year by year which can be paid from its earnings in that year, and that the balance should be accepted as the public responsibility which it is because it has been imposed by Act of Parliament. That proposal was endorsed by the Sunday "Observer," which is not a supporter of this party, and nor has it consulted with me in arriving at that conclusion.

The Act passed by the previous Government—and I say that at once—says that this industry shall redeem its own capital liabilities after the expiry of a period of years, which represents a burden on the industry of something like £2½ million per year into the sinking fund. That, again, is a most extraordinary liability to place upon the industry—that it should not only have to continue to pay a fixed rate of interest over that period of years but also have to provide a sinking fund, costing £2½ million a year, in order to redeem the total stock at the end of that period, and then be exempt from redemption and all interest charges. That is not equity. I say that it is a heavy burden to place upon the present generation that they should not only have to maintain the heavy rate of interest but also maintain the total redemption cost in order to hand over the industry, free of interest, to the next generation. That is something which the Government ought to look at as a public responsibility and not as a responsibility to be carried by the railways from year to year.

Photo of Mr Frederick Gough Mr Frederick Gough , Horsham

I think that this is a matter of importance. The hon. Member said that it is an extraordinary thing that, having taken over the industry from private shareholders, the industry should pay back the money which represents the shareholding of that industry. I should like to have that matter made clear.

Photo of Mr John Hynd Mr John Hynd , Sheffield, Attercliffe

I did not say that the shares should not be redeemed or should not carry their interest. I said that it places a heavy imposition on a nationalised industry that over a set period of years it should have to carry the whole of the redemption loan plus the total interest rates year by year so that at the end of that period it may be handed over to the next generation without any charges whatever with regard to redemption or interest in the future.

When that situation comes about and the whole of the stock has been redeemed and there is no further interest to pay, I presume that the average Tory economist will say, "Here is a wonderfully prosperous industry; a great national economic asset," because it is making a profit from year to year, whereas during the last 90 years, or whatever the redemption period, it has been a liability to the country. We cannot test the economic viability of an industry of this kind by taking a balance irrespective of the liabilities and assets from time to time, and judging it on the profit that can be shown at the end of a year.

The next imposition placed upon the industry by Governments is, of course, that of allowing the C licence system to run riot. There has been an increase of over 100 per cent. in C licences over the last seven years. There is no doubt that this C licence system is being exploited as it was never intended it should be under the Act. The very fact of increasing the number of carrying vehicles whether on road or rail does not of itself improve the economic aspect of transport; in fact, the very opposite is the case—the fewer vehicles required to carry the same amount of traffic, the more the profitability of the concern. Therefore, if Conservative Members believe that, by encouraging the growth of large fleets of carrying vehicles all over the country and forcing the railway trucks and carriages to run half empty at a loss, they are improving the transport system of the country, they are making a very serious mistake.

A still further imposition on the industry is this. During the last six years, the country, rightly, has been concentrating on the development of other enormous and important assets—coal, electricity, gas and so on. That has been done by calling in millions of pounds for technical improvements and improving the standard of those workers, particularly in the coal industry. That has partly been done on the backs of the railways workers, because the railway workers are today probably the worst-paid workers in the country in relation to the kind of work they do. By the action that the Government have taken, and by other actions to which I have already referred, the railway and the transport authorities are specifically prevented from having the opportunity of improving, even to a moderate degree, the conditions of employment of their workers.

Most of us have endorsed the principle that, in order to have a healthy, live coal industry and healthy happy coal workers, it was right that the public should be called upon to pay a reasonable price for its coal to enable these things to be done. We have done that, and the industry is now a good economic proposition. If having done that, does preventing the railway and the transport authorities from doing the same thing make transport an uneconomical proposition for the country? That is crazy economics, apart from being entirely unjust in relation to the people concerned.

Some of my colleagues have argued about the difficulties which the proposed increases would have caused to large sections of our people. I have carefully read the Report of the Consultative Committee. With particular interest I read the section on the abolition of shift workers' ticket facilities. I have been astonished at some of the anomalies. A bus driver on shift work is entitled to a reduced fare if he is ostensibly travelling to work, but his lower-paid bus conductor, because he handles money, is not entitled to it.

It has been said by many hon. Members that these increases and the abolition of some of these sub-standard fares would have been a tremendous shock to people who have been enjoying them for some time; but these hon. Members have not argued about the justice of it. But what about the shock to the railwaymen who are now being told by the Government that they have to continue to subsidise the sub-standard fares and the uneconomic fares still being paid by other people? Perhaps the answer will be like that given by the lady who was charged with cruelty by skinning eels alive. She said, "The eels get used to it." Probably the railwaymen are getting used to their lower wages and can stand the shock better than other people can.

The transport industry is suffering from the burdens placed on it since the war, by the threat to de-nationalise sections of the road transport industry and by the increase in the Petrol Duty, which is an additional burden on it. If this kind of policy is to be imposed on the industry, how will it be possible for it ever to pay its way and how will it ever be possible for the railwayman to get reasonable conditions of employment?

It would be strange if, as a number of hon. Members opposite have suggested, all this were due to inefficiency, over-centralisation and so on, and over-staffing as one hon. Member alleged without producing any proof, although he could not refute what was put to him against that, and if all my arguments had no strength whatever. It would be a remarkable thing that it should be so when one looks at the figures given in the reports of the Transport Commission, particularly in relation to the railway section. Hon. Members may be surprised to know that in 1948 net traffic receipts totalled no less than £26 million; in 1949, £12,500,000, and in 1950, £26,000,000, again. That is not bad. It is a total profit of £26 million in 1950 before paying interest.

The basis on which a profit is usually assessed is to take the cost of running the industry and then to take the income and obtain the balance of profit. Then one normally decides how much one can pay in interest. But as the result of imposed Government policy, this industry is not allowed to do that, and its £26 million profit has to be distributed in some way to meet the interest burden of some £35 million, so that it runs at a loss, although it is making a profit.

Many economies have been made, and it is no use hon. Members trying to decry those economies. Since 1948 the railways alone have made economies in train-mile working representing some £35 million to £40 million a year, which could never have been possible under private enterprise competing as companies. [Laughter.] It is no good hon. Members laughing. It was never done before. Royal Commission after Royal Commission showed that overheads were continually piling up due to competition, and Commission after Commission showed that it was only by co-ordination of these activities under one single authority, such as took place under the 1947 Act, that economies could be effected.

There are a number of measures which can be and ought to be taken by the Government. First of all, I think the re- demption charge should be made a national charge. It is sufficient for the Transport Commission to pay the 3 per cent. guaranteed rate of interest until the redemption date without carrying the redemption charge. If that were done it would mean that the redemption charge would be spread over other generations and not simply on the generation which existed when the system was nationalised.

Secondly, the interest on stocks should be related to the earnings year by year and the difference of guaranteed interest should be made up as a public liability. Thirdly, and most important of all, the Transport Commission should be entitled to impose charges for their services which are regarded as equitable when compared with other costs in the country, and so enable the undertaking to pay its way. I am surprised that any Conservative Member of Parliament should oppose such a proposition. Fourthly, we should now indulge in the luxury of a real national policy of co-ordination and integration of road and rail. That is something which I know the Conservative Party will not approve. I go further and say there should be integration of road, rail and canal, with emphasis on canal development for less important traffic to be carried long distances.

Finally, I say that if anything is to be done to maintain this industry as it ought to be maintained so that it is in an efficient condition in the event of a national emergency, then it has got to be treated as a national responsibility, and it should no longer be made the plaything of the political exponents of private enterprise or treated as something to be thrown to the profit makers.

I know the Tories do not like nationalisation. We have been told this by them so often that we can be excused if we suspect that actions such as the one we are debating today are not unconnected with their political prejudices, and I do not think that the people in the country will get out of their minds that there may be something between the protestations of the Conservative Party about nationalisation and the actions they are taking to make it more difficult for the nationalised industries to survive.

My last word is this. [Interruption.] I would gladly carry on, for I know that hon. Members opposite would like me to do so, but time is getting short. If the Conservative Party, in the position of the Government of the day, whether in consideration of local elections or for any other political reason, throw a spanner into the wheels of our great transport industry, which is no less vital to the country than coal or any other basic industry, including agriculture, particularly at this time when the country may be faced at any moment with a very serious emergency when transport should be at the peak of its efficiency, then they will be committing a crime not only against this country but against Western democracy.

9.55 p.m.

Photo of Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton , Inverness

The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) said that he wanted efficiency in our transport service. He said that we must have integration, co-ordination, and unification. I do not quite know exactly what is meant by that, unless it is, as the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) said, that all London services should be integrated so that the same fares are charged on road, rail and tube. I hope that that is not the ultimate idea of hon. Gentlemen opposite, because if it came to pass it might make travel to the North of Scotland very difficult indeed.

We are told to be thankful for small mercies. By this standstill of fares we have had some small mercies in the North of Scotland, because without the standstill the first-class return fare to Thurso, with sleeper, would cost nearly £20. That would be far too high. In any case, the third-class return fare to Thurso is still £9 13s. 5d. Without the standstill it would have been £10 10s. 8d.

Nationalisation of transport is a phrase that is being conjured with quite a lot. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said that he wanted to see transport in this country efficient and economic, and that he wanted public transport to succeed, at reasonable rates. Does the right hon. Gentleman want public transport, or just transport, to succeed? Is he prejudiced into thinking that it must be public transport? Our experience of public transport, certainly in the North of Scotland, is most unhappy. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has said, the public have been treated by this Transport Commission as a disposable economic unit.

Right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have created a kind of Frankenstein monster which has almost entirely destroyed the relationship between the public and the operators, except by way of consumers' councils and consultative councils, which are a kind of cow-catcher to get the public out of the road. The best access for the public is through their Members of Parliament. Lord Hurcombe knows how to work the machine and he is very courteous. He does everything he can, including the stopping of trains, like the 7.20 from Inverness, and the reporting of trains being snowed up for 28 hours. We have to get the information from Lord Hurcombe because it has been hitherto impossible to get it from the Minister of Transport.

I have had urgent letters sent to me recently by the Chamber of Commerce in Inverness, saying that the cost of transport to the North of Scotland is simply killing all industry in the north. The letters have been accompanied by other letters giving evidence from 24 firms in the North of Scotland saying exactly the same thing. I want to give one example of how this monopoly in transport is hitting small industries in the north.

A number of hon. Members have mentioned the old idea that we ought to limit the number of "C" licences. I have had a letter from a man who started a factory in Inverasdale, in Western Ross, and who says that he will be having his own transport because road haulage rates are prohibitive. He gives an example. When he wanted his factory built, he knew that the material was available in Glasgow, so he asked British Road Services to bring it. They said that they were not in his area and suggested that some fish people could run it up. They actually had "C" licences but they were not allowed to convey those things, although they returned empty.

Eventually, the haulage contractors in Glasgow said that they would do the job if they could get permission. They applied to the Road Haulage Executive for the permission. This was turned down, and finally British Road Services said they would do it but must have 100 per cent. above the normal haulage rate. That is simply holding the customer in the north to ransom. Therefore, as hon. Members may imagine, we are not enamoured in the North of Scotland with a so-called integrated transport system.

I have quoted some examples of what it is like to travel from the North of Scotland to the south. It is bad enough when one is alive, but when one is dead it is even worse. To transport by British Railways remains for burial from London to Portree a charge of £80 15s. has been levied. That seems to me quite prohibitive. It certainly does not pay for a Highlander to die in London. I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite who called for a review of the financial basis of the transport provisions, but let us get a truer approach to the transport system of this country and judge it by the merits of efficiency and economy. That is what we really want, and none of us has any real reason to believe that the word "nationalisation" will bring it.

I have spoken of the North of Scotland. I believe we have great opportunities in that part of the world if we take the right steps, but at present transport is killing development. I do not want to speak from a parochial point of view. It is the best thing for Britain that Scotland should stand on its own feet and enjoy a flourishing economy, and on those words I will close.

10.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

The debate has been interesting on a narrow front. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) sat down, the Home Secretary must have felt that there were many questions which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport would have to answer. Indeed, having heard the speech of my right hon. Friends the Member for Lewisham, South and East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), I doubt whether there is any need for me to make a speech at all.

Photo of Captain Robert Ryder Captain Robert Ryder , Merton and Morden

Might I interrupt the hon. Gentleman?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

I am sure the hon. and gallant Member would gladly take my place because he has sat here all day in order to make a contribution. I regret very much that he did not have the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, but I am prepared to give way and allow the Parliamentary Secretary a full hour to wind up if he would like it.

Mr. Braithwaite:

Half an hour.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

I thought he would not. I regret very much that the Minister of Transport is ill for, however much I deplore his policies and think that they are retrograde and against the national interest, I am certain that he would want to come here and defend them if he were in a position to do so. However, the Parliamentary Secretary has a nimble wit. I think he will need it before the night is out, because there are a number of questions that have been addressed to him to which he must give us some answer, even on the narrow front which the Home Secretary deployed in the case he made.

For example, let us take the time-table of events between last October, when the Tribunal started its public hearings, and the standstill order which was issued on 17th April. In October the public hearings started. I emphasise the fact that they were public. Anyone was entitled to go. Anyone could know what was being said if they cared to read the technical Press, where the accounts of the witnesses were given in full. Certainly the Minister and his officials would have known fully what was going on at the hearings of the Transport Tribunal.

We then come to 3rd December, when the last public hearing was taken, on which date Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, who was appearing for the British Transport Commission, made his final speech in submission to the Transport Tribunal, in which he dealt specifically with the position of London and the sub-standard fares. His speech and his submission were fully reported in the technical Press. As far as I can see, the Minister took no action at all.

The next date we come to is 18th January, when a Press conference was held at which the British Transport Commission explained what they proposed to do, and it appeared in the newspapers next day. There is no excuse at all for the Minister of Transport not acting at any of these points. He knew what was taking place, and it is not good enough both for his apologists in the person of the "Daily Telegraph" and for the Home Secretary this afternoon to tell us that he was taken by surprise, and that there was a period of only four days somewhere between 22nd February and 2nd March in which the Minister could take this action.

I do not blame the Minister of Transport if he was misled about the effects of these changes, because the main headline in the "Daily Telegraph" on the day after the Press conference had been held was: Single fares to be reduced by one-third. There followed in the "Daily Telegraph" a long list giving examples—this was on 19th January—of the reductions in fares between the big provincial centres and London. And then, tucked away on page 6 or 8—one of the back pages—was a long list of increases in very small type.

That, of course, was before the county council elections, and no doubt they wanted to spread the fact that there were to be substantial reductions. Perhaps the Minister was misled by that, but he knew what was taking place and he could have acted at any time between 19th January and the date upon which he issued the standstill order. There is no excuse whatever, and the Home Secretary is misleading us when he says that the Minister had only a short period of four days in which to act upon this matter and to become acquainted with what was taking place. The Home Secretary should not mislead us in this way. He ought to have explained that the whole of the facts were made public and could have been acted upon by the Minister at any time within a matter of six weeks before the standstill order.

I now come to the next point. Why has it taken so long to refer to the Central Consultative Committee the new terms of reference, and why has not the Home Secretary told us what they are to be? When the Minister on 11th March referred the fare increases in London to the Central Consultative Committee, he acted within 24 hours of telling us that he proposed to do so. It took him a mere 24 hours to draft the letter and send it off to the Consultative Committee.

It is now a fortnight tomorrow since the Minister suspended the operation of the increased fares from 1st May. Why has he not sent the new terms of reference to the Central Consultative Committee? What are they to be? Where are they? What is holding them up? If the Minister could act within 24 hours in sending the London fares to the Committee for consideration, why has it taken him a fortnight to agree on the current terms of reference?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

But it is so. It is a fortnight tomorrow since the statement was issued saying that the increases were to be suspended. Is it that the Prime Minister feared that, perhaps, he would get a report from the Central Consultative Committee inconveniently quickly? Is it that he suspected that he might get an answer from them before the municipal election results came out? Is that the reason why he has taken a fortnight to draft terms of reference that he could have drafted, and did draft, within 24 hours? The Prime Minister must not be surprised if we suspect his motives on these things.

Let me put another question to the Parliamentary Secretary. As we understand the position, the total amount involved in the terms of the Motion here, which they believe represents an unfair burden on the public, is approximately £2,500,000. The hon. Member agrees with that figure, but the increases in fares which have been recommended to take effect from 1st May amount to £21 million. What about the balance of £18,500,000? Is that to be referred to the Central Consultative Committee? I take it not, because it is not mentioned in the Motion as being among the aspects of the matter which the Government believe to operate unfairly on the public.

If this £18,500,000 is not in dispute—and that is mainly the standard fares in the provinces—when are those increases to take effect? Are they to take effect and, if so, when and why not now? Why are the Government putting it off? When are we to have an answer from the Government? I hope we shall have one from the Parliamentary Secretary tonight telling us when the £18,500,000 of fare increases, that apparently the Government expect, are to be put into force. We have not heard yet, and it is not in dispute. I say now to the Prime Minister that the Government must be keeping this in reserve until after the municipal elections are held and that afterwards they will announce that the £18,500,000 is to be clapped on while saving their faces by referring the £2,500,000 to the Central Consultative Committee. Are those not the facts of the case? Is that not what they are doing?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

The Home Secretary says "No." Can he tell us when those fares are to be increased?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

In that case, I did not hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Perhaps he will interrupt me and say when they are to take place.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I did not want to interrupt the hon. Member because he is speaking against time, but I did make clear that the increase of the 10 per cent. took effect in January and it was included in the purview of the Tribunal, but the Commission put it into operation on powers which they had and are believed to have in existence.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

I am sorry I am not making myself clear to the Home Secretary, but I think I have made myself clear to my hon. Friends, and I think I shall be clear to the country. Eighteen and a half million pounds is the amount of the increase the Government does not dispute. I wish to ask the very simple question, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can tell me, as the Home Secretary cannot, why is that figure not to be held up now and why did they propose to increase those fares in accordance with the decision of the Transport Tribunal? It is, I think, simple, and plain enough. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am content to leave the answer to the Parliamentary Secretary, but I warn him that if he does not answer us the country will draw its own conclusions and will know when the increases are coming and will know why they are held up now.

I wish to put a point which I think is the most important one and does not affect this narrow issue at all. What I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us is whether the Government believe or not in co-ordination of road and rail, because they have been talking this afternoon, certainly all their supporters have been talking, as though road and rail are rival forms of transport. We do not take that view. Indeed, it is an out-dated point of view. Road and rail are not rival forms of transport: they are partners, and it is only if they are treated as partners and not as rivals that the transport system of this country can be established on a healthy basis.

That is precisely the purpose of the Transport Act, 1947, and that is precisely the reason why we fear very much that the proposals of the Government in relation to road haulage and its de-nationalisation will set the clock back, not to the 1940's, not to the 1930's but to the 1920's. Because it was in 1930 that the first Royal Commission on Transport—not the first, but one of the many Royal Commissions; at any rate, the first Royal Commission on Transport which considered the matter since road competition really became a serious matter—said that co-ordination of road and rail is the only way to establish a healthy transport system in this country.

That became the prevailing point throughout the 1930s, and in 1938, when the railways were running their "Square Deal" campaign, the then Conservative Minister of Transport, Captain Euan Wallace, referred the Square Deal proposals to the Transport Advisory Committee for consideration, subject to one consideration, that they should keep in mind the overall objective of the co-ordination of road and rail. What I put to the Government is, how do they suppose that their proposal to atomise road transport, to split it from the railways, will promote a healthy transport system in this country?

I will put it more directly. It is of course possible, and indeed it was the case before the war, that a wealthy nation can have excess transport facilities, some of which they do not intend to use. But with our nation in its present state, when we have to make use of every £ of capital investment we can get, are the Government really prepared to see the unco-ordinated development of road transport on the one hand, and rail transport on the other, providing an excess of transport facilities?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

The Prime Minister says "No." I am sure his intentions are honourable but, if I may say so, his understanding is not complete in this matter. I hope he will not think it too impertinent of me if I say that he knows little about this subject; yet he has taken the action. On the other hand, the Minister of Transport, who does know, seems to have been forbidden to say anything; while Lord Leathers, whose silence since the General Election has been remarkable, has not made a speech on this subject, so far as I can find out, since 1943, when he said that co-ordination was the only answer to the problem of road and rail.

As words of mine cannot reach Lord Leathers, perhaps the Prime Minister will whisper in his ear some time that the art of democracy is government by discussion, and that we shall be very glad indeed to hear the views of the Co-ordinating Minister, and how far he has changed them since he expressed that view in 1943. But we do insist that the Government cannot possibly permit the ownership of road and rail to exist in different sets of hands and at the same time maintain control over the capital investment of both. They cannot be run economically or efficiently unless they are treated as partners and concentrated in the same pair of hands.

Because we feel this so strongly we have insisted in the Transport Act, now being carried through and which has yielded some remarkable results indeed, that this solution must be applied. The hon. Member for Inverness (Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton) uttered some scathing things about the effects of nationalisation in Scotland. There are different views about this.

It so happens I was intending to quote what an independent witness has to say about the railway system in Scotland since nationalisation. I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will pardon me, it is a little technical, and I fully realise that there are many people who do not take as much interest in transport as this quotation may seem to indicate that they do. It appears in a newspaper which has been quoted before in this debate, "Modern Transport," which bears the proud title of "'The Times' of the transport world." This is what it says about Scotland: In the four years since nationalisation, operating statistics have been notably improved and very considerable economies effected by consistent application to the study of traffic flows. That is jargon, but I think its general meaning gets across. This follows, I should have said in the first place, a series of articles that appeared in "Modern Transport," explaining the setup in Scotland today and what had been done since nationalisation.

It goes on to say: pre-nationalisation operating methods, especially in respect of exchange of traffic between previously separated administrations, have given place to logical routeing of traffic; exchange points and marshalling yards that obstructed rather than assisted traffic flow have been closed. As a result of traffic analyses a remarkable increase in fully-fitted freight trains of Class C types"— do not ask me to explain what Class C freight trains are; some of my hon. Friends who sit behind me could explain— has been achieved between 1948 and the present day; and the level of average freight trains speeds has been greatly improved. This is in Scotland: Other big savings"— I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to note this when they are calling for more de-centralisation— have arisen from concentration of responsibility for freight rolling stock control and distribution throughout Scotland, onto the operating superintendent at Glasgow, instead of the pre-nationalisation control from York and Euston. Here I set a point of view against that of the noble Lord the Member for Inverness, that of "Modern Transport" which has made a careful and detailed study of this matter: The record of the Region so far is inspiring in that it shows clearly that the benefits some of us foresaw from integration are by no means out of reach, even without heavy expenditure on new works. Is it not worth hon. Gentlemen opposite really trying to understand the fundamental difficulties of railway operating in the world today instead of merely coming here uttering complaints about a situation which is world-wide and which can only be solved if these two forms of transport are put together?

I ask the Government whether they intend to overthrow the scheme of integration that is laid down in the British Transport Commission's report. They set down, in page 21 of their annual report for 1950, the forms of traffic each of which is considered to be specially suitable and efficient for each form of transport, road and rail, and the types of traffics are listed—seven headings in each case. Are the Government going to throw all this overboard? Are we to find that during the next month or two, if the Government come here with a policy, that they are to get rid of the integration that is already taking place?

Have they not followed the tremendous exchanges that are going on now and have been going on throughout the winter from the railways to road haulage, which is of course owned, on the long-distance side, by the Commission itself? Have they not followed the tremendous transfers of coal, formerly carried over the railways, to the road system? Integration is happening every day.

Do the Government really propose to pluck this thing up now before it has had chance to take root, when it is really growing to some stature, and can really affect the economy of the country very profoundly, in order to satisfy their electoral promises to the road hauliers? I regard the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade as primarily responsible for the present difficulties of the Government. What has happened is that they have concentrated for the last six years on the road hauliers' rights. That seems to have been their contribution to thinking on the transport problems of the country.

I say to the Prime Minister that to make the transport system of this country, with a capital of £1,700 million and with an annual turnover of £520 million, revolve round the electoral claims of a few road hauliers is like standing a pyramid on its apex. It can be done, but it is a difficult thing to do and there is no real reason for doing it.

I know the Government made promises to the road hauliers, but I will promise the Prime Minister that if he will break his promises to them, I will never reproach him for doing so, because he will be acting in the interests of the nation and not in the interests of those who contributed to the Conservative Party funds. This claim can easily be refuted. They need only publish their accounts. I was once told when I made the statement on a public platform that the matter would be raised as a question of Privilege. That was two years ago, and I am still waiting for the question of Privilege to be raised.

I repeat—and this is a sad thing about the Conservative Party—that instead of treating transport as a real problem that has got to be solved, they have allowed themselves to be dragged at the tail of the road hauliers. Now that they are in office they should be prepared to think bigger than that and to get on with the job of co-ordinating road and rail in order to make the two things work in the nation interest.

In their hearts the Government know that this Amendment which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and others more accurately reflects the position. Do the Government back bench supporters really believe after hearing the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South, that there has been no vacillation and lack of co-ordination? If they do, they cannot have been present in the House when my right hon. Friend made his speech.

Do not they feel that there is some responsibility upon their own Government to come forward and say how they propose to meet the deficit which is mounting week by week and month by month? Do not they believe—I believe they do—that our Amendment really reflects the real situation today? When they go into the Division Lobby they will vote to keep their Government in power, and not because they believe in what they are doing. The note on which I wish to close is this, and I address myself especially to those on the Government Front Bench responsible for transport.

The Prime Minister has not yet published the White Paper. I understand it has been held up because of difficulties in reconciling particular interests.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

In that case, it is difficult to know why we have waited six months for a transport policy, because the party opposite told us before they came to office that they had a policy.

I think the Prime Minister would agree with me that road haulage really became a powerful factor in our economic life as long ago as 1920 and that this problem has developed over 30 years. I believe that in 1947 we hit upon a solution which the party opposite are now going to destroy before it has a chance of establishing itself. The point I want to make—and it is a most important point—is that the delay in publishing the White Paper is causing profound disquiet among a great many transport workers. They want to know where they stand. As one said to me at the weekend, they are looking over their shoulders wondering what is going to happen to them. That is a bad state of affairs.

If we can get from the Government a White Paper which really attempts to solve the problem in the national interest, I am prepared to advise my friends in the industry to wait. That is the important element in this matter. As my right hon. Friend said, none of us is wedded to any particular form of organisation. What we regard as vital is that road and rail should be regarded as partners and not as rivals. In the nationalisation of transport we do not wish to cling to obsolete methods of transport or to shut out the new methods. That is no way to implement a transport policy. But we do say to the Government that the real way in which to ensure that obsolete methods and new methods are worked together is if both are in the same pair of hands, and it is only if road and rail are worked together under public ownership that we can ensure that our transport policy will be commensurate with the needs of the times and of the nation.

The Prime Minister has a dreadful responsibility upon him at the moment in this matter. I hope that he will not, for the sake of a short electoral advantage, issue a White Paper or make any interim settlement which in five years' time he will be sorry to look back on. I regret very much the changes that have taken place. I regret very much that this standstill order has been, in our view, a mere party matter designed to secure an electoral advantage. As such it will fail, and in the fortnight that remains before the White Paper is issued I trust that the Prime Minister will have second thoughts and will look at this transport question in the interests of the nation as a whole.

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add: but regrets the vacillation and lack of co-ordination between Ministers which have caused the present confused position and further regrets that in coming to its present decision, the Government has made no proposal for making up the deficit in the Commission's revenue which would be further adversely affected if road haulage were de-nationalised; and accordingly calls for a review of the financial basis of the British Transport Commission, reaffirming the view that the interests of the travelling public and commercial users and those engaged in the industry will be best served by the integration under public ownership of road and rail transport, as provided in the Transport Act, 1947.

10.32 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite):

May I first of all add my voice to the very kind and courteous expressions of regret which have been made from the benches opposite at the absence on this occasion of the Minister of Transport. I have had the great privilege of working under my hon. Friend for the past six months and I can assure the House that he is the temporary victim of his unswerving assiduity, zeal and sense of public duty. Hon. Members will be glad to learn that my hon. Friend has made good progress during the weekend. His understudy now has to make a brief appearance at this Box.

It is frequently said of this honourable House that it is at its best when some great sense of stress or emotion causes us to rise above partisanship and reveal that underlying unity which is there all the time. However that may be, I think it will be generally acknowledged that we are at our most interesting when the proceedings become somewhat rumbustious. Parliament, after all, is a forum of controversy, and judged by that criterion I think we can say that this has been a good Parliamentary day, with plenty of good hard-hitting speeches, of which, to me at least, the most enjoyable was that of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), although I thought he did have a lapse towards the conclusion of his remarks. I prefer him when he is extolling the virtues of the Royal Navy to when he is denigrating the road hauliers and the Tory Party.

There has been, none the less, a certain amount of common ground which has emerged from the day's discussion. There has been growing, for some time now, a general feeling on all benches that all is not well with the Transport Act of 1947. Questions have been put from both sides of the House. They have been echoed from across the river, from the London County Council. I think the matter was well put on 21st March, when we had a debate on a Private Member's Motion on the subject of freight charges, by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) who initiated the debate. After being twitted for supporting the Transport Act, 1947, and for failing to table any Amendment, the hon. and learned Gentleman said—and I think this is a very fair statement of the situation— It matters little what line hon. Members took when the Transport Bill was going through the House of Commons and whether certain Amendments were proposed or not in Committee. We learned from experience, and if the Transport Act needs amendment now, there is no reason why it should not be amended in the way that I have indicated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 2837.] That has been the theme song of the speeches we have heard since this debate began at half-past three.

We have had a number of interesting speeches on the basis of what I would call the inter-constituency rivalry in hardships imposed by these increased fares, and a number of extremely well informed speeches. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) was one, and the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) was another, who spoke on technical economies and improvements which might be made by the railways. I must not forget the somewhat macabre contribution from my noble Friend the Member for Inverness (Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton) on the subject of the increased cost of the carriage of corpses. I think he told us that it now cost £80 for this sad form of transport. I thought that a bit stiff.

Of course, we had at the commencement of our discussion a very important speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), whom we always like to hear on transport matters, as a previous Minister, who read the House a lesson on the somewhat unexpected topic of fortitude. He told us that the Government, actuated by panic after the results of the London County Council elections, had caused this action to be taken in the matter of fares. I thought it was an interesting suggestion. So shattered, said the right hon. Gentleman, was the Minister of Transport by the London County Council elections on 3rd April that he referred the matter to the Consultative Committee on 11th March. If that was so, the panic was somewhat contagious, because the right hon. Gentleman may well remember that Mr. Hayward, the Leader of the L.C.C., expressed his own discomfort about the same date upon the raising of the fares.

But the right hon. Gentleman went further. He told us that the panic had also broken out at No. 10, Downing Street. He painted, I thought, a lurid picture of how the Prime Minister, alarmed and angry at the L.C.C. results, dashed round to the Ministry of Transport, scattering officials in every direction, occupied the seat of my hon. Friend, threw the Minister through the nearest window, not forgetting the Parliamentary Secretary, of course, and proceeded to throw a spanner into every piece of machinery.

I wonder if there is anyone in this House, or, indeed outside, who really believes that my right hon. Friend, who led this country through its darkest days, is going to toss on a restless pillow because of the loss of 26 seats on the London County Council. That is the sort of thing which might worry the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South.

The right hon. Member addressed to me certain pointed questions and I want to give him the answers—