I beg to move,
That this House approves the policy of Her Majesty's Government for Transport as set out in Command Paper No. 8538.
Before I deal with the terms of this Motion, which stands in the names of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others, I should like to thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the many messages of good will, sometimes interspersed with comments of another kind, which I have received in the last two weeks. I should also like to thank the very large number of people in the transport industry itself who have sent me their good wishes on my appointment as Minister of Transport.
All this will help me very much in my onerous task, but—and here I know that I shall have the House with me—my task has been made a great deal easier by the good relations that were established by my predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay), with all with whom he came in contact, and indeed by the respect and affection that he inspired everywhere. I know that I am speaking for both sides of the House when I say that we wish him an early recovery from the illness which has distressed all his friends.
I commend this White Paper to the House as representing the broad outline of the views of Her Majesty's Government on the problem of transport today. We shall welcome informed comment on these proposals.
I am very glad. I hope I shall be allowed to outline the case without too much interruption. We shall pay the utmost regard to all such informed opinion both in preparing the Bill and later while the Bill itself is under discussion.
I have read in the newspapers and have heard elsewhere that this White Paper has been condemned because, it is said, there was no proper consultation with the interests involved. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), will wax very eloquent on that particular theme, but the country was never left in any doubt as to the intentions of the Government to deal with transport affairs along certain clear lines.
We shall not be losing the track or leaving it.
We have never been in any doubt at all about the views of the majority of the interested parties in transport, but the constitutional position in regard to consultation remains exactly as it was when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), whom I see in his place, introduced the Transport Bill of the Socialist Government in 1946. He then said in this House:
I have been only too conscious of the fact that we are dealing here with an industry which affects the whole trade, the amenities, convenience and pleasure of all our citizens "—
and these are the important words—
and that because of the difficulty of discussion and the disclosure of major matters of policy before they have been submitted to Parliament, a Minister in my position has not the opportunity of consulting freely and openly those who are responsible for operating this industry. —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1622.]
After very lengthy debates both on the Floor of the House and in Committee upstairs, the right hon. Gentleman moved the Third Reading of that Bill, and then said:
During the preparation of the Bill, one could not discuss it openly, freely and frankly, with the many large representative bodies that are interested in our transport, but immediately it was published I invited all those who considered that they had any case to make to do so." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May. 1947; Vol. 437, c. 38.]
We hope to go further in consultation than the right hon. Gentleman was able to do, and during the preparation of this Bill, and without waiting for publication of the Bill, and, of course, later still, after the Bill has been published and presented, we hope to have the fullest consultation with all who are concerned both in regard to the proposed new general structure and particular aspects of the Government's proposals.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, has said that these proposals will not last, and that one purpose of this debate was to make that clear. I do not think that this particular view, as he expressed it, altogether and entirely commends itself to all his own hon. Friends.
We shall wait and see. Certainly, as we all know, any Government can undo the work of its predecessor. No one takes exception at all to an Opposition when, after listening to debates on a Bill, at the end of the day they remain wholly unconvinced and announce their determination, if the chance comes, to reverse the decision that Parliament has reached. Indeed, an hon. Friend of all of ours who was in the House at the time, and who wound up for the Conservative Opposition in 1947, said at the close of the Third Reading of the Socialist Transport Bill that we looked forward to the day when we could reverse some, if not all, of its provisions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who was that?"] Mr. Oliver Poole, a former Member of this House.
No one, I think, can quarrel with an attitude of that kind. We must hope, for the country's sake, that this will not be on a very extended scale, and that the field will not be deliberately widened. No one surveying nationalised industries and Her Majesty's Government's present policy—and this applies in regard to the public ownership of the railways in the White Paper—can say that we have set ourselves all along the line to undo everything that was done by our predecessors merely because they did it.
I repeat that no one could object or quarrel if after a long and searching debate an Opposition remains unconvinced and undertakes to reverse a decision reached; but to say in advance of the publication of a Bill, before the Bill has been seen or the picture as a whole can be discerned, that it would be reversed without qualification is not the act of a very responsible Opposition. I see that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, is also being urged to say that no one who comes into the road haulage business now should get any compensation if later the industry is once more nationalised. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is much better that we should all know where we stand.
There have been cheers from hone Members opposite and the "Daily Herald" has urged that this should he so, but I hope the consequences will be borne in mind. It is being suggested that, if a law is passed by a sovereign Parliament and if people in good faith pay money for certain valuable assets, that another Government should repudiate their predecessors' obligations. I would be content to leave a problem of that kind to the general good judgment of our fellow countrymen.
We shall have had free enterprise on the roads for a long time before that happens, and I would venture to suggest that if ever that threat were put forward seriously and by responsible people, it could only mean that they think they are very unlikely to be in a position ever to put it into practice. After all, many Governments take over the financial obligations of their predecessors.
We, for example, at the moment have to implement honourably a financial obligation to the doctors running into many millions of pounds. Is it suggested that we ought to repudiate that?
I will come to that. That obligation is based on an award which resulted from terms of reference agreed between the doctors and the last Socialist Government, and, of course, we cannot repudiate it.
But surely the real answer to a problem of this kind is to produce a Bill, which we believe we shall produce, which will commend itself to all wise and moderate opinion in the country, and this no future Government would be likely to disturb. This, with the help of all concerned and in active association with those most interested, Her Majesty's present Government are resolved to do. I think no one can deny that this is an issue of the first importance, vital to every national activity, trade, industry and agriculture and to the ordinary every-day life of our people. It is true to say that in the field of national recovery and full employment anything that reduces the cost and increases the speed of transport will play a major part in our economic recovery.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will not claim for themselves a monopoly of interest in the welfare of the people who work either on the road or on the rail. I as Minister of Transport am fully conscious of my duty and my obligations to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who are engaged in the transport life of whose welfare and pride in their job is a matter of the utmost concern to me.
No one, least of all anybody who was lucky enough, as I was, to serve in the Channel and in the North Sea during the war, and who was largely dependent on transport services in the United Kingdom, can ever remember the story of the road and rail and dock contributions during the war without feelings of great emotion, and it is true to say that on no section of our people more than on the transport people did the war fall more ferociously and continuously.
From the days of Dunkirk all through the period of the whole evacuation, ceaseless bombing, attempts to paralyse London transport, right up to the 10,000 special trains that were run in the three weeks before D Day, the conduct of our road and rail industry was unsurpassed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get to the White Paper."] We are getting to the White Paper, but hon. Gentlemen opposite might, I think, remember that there is a large background to this business which has been much sullied and marred by their own more recent activities.
I will say that the 30 George Crosses and George Medals that were earned—[Interruption.] Some hon. Members opposite may be very glad to forget about heroism during the war, but these decorations won in the war are a measure of the contribution made by the people who worked in those circumstances.
I want to make it quite plain, on assuming these responsibilities, that no one with any sense of responsibility would frivolously or for partisan reasons interfere either in the livelihood or the way of setting about their business of people of this kind.
As I said, we hope to frame a Bill which will commend itself to most sensible people. The first thing we have to consider is the situation as we found it when we won the last election. I take it that no one would pretend, to use the words of the 1947 Act, that we had when we succeeded inherited
an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated system of public inland transport … in such a manner as to provide most efficiently and conveniently for the needs of the public.
I have never heard that suggested, even from the benches opposite. How did this situation come about? The last Government, with the best of intentions, devised proposals that they hoped would lead to that result. Their theory was that if the owners of all large concerns were expropriated and all transport, road and rail, were put under one authority, there would be a public advantage, provided that the authority had the mass of vehicles and the power they thought they ought to enjoy.
But what in fact happened? We have an organisation that took over control of some thousand or more millions of pounds worth of investment and capital, rail and road. It is the largest organisation of its kind in the world. If a private monopoly gives bad service, the public suffer, but the monopoly goes bankrupt. [An HON. MEMBER: "Does it?"] Well, history is studded with illustrations; but if a public monopoly fails to conduct its affairs efficiently and economically, the public have to pay all the time.
I hardly think that question is relevant. If, as I said, we are to have a clear appreciation of the false premise on which the whole of these proposals in 1947 were based, we have to realise that in the Socialist Bill itself there was only one subsection devoted to the scheme of things to which the Act was intended to lead. It is, of course, a perfect theory that all transport can be co-ordinated in one great whole; but in practice, as I think most reasonable opinion would agree, it does not work out that way.
We have had four and a half years of experience and there is no sign whatever of the future structure that we were led to believe we would enjoy. There have been one or two illustrations of agreement reached between road and rail as to what is suitable traffic for one or the other, but there is no indication that these very minor agreements will in any way influence the channels of traffic in the future. It is an essential background point that the Government cannot be accused of breaking up an integrated transport system either in present being or in future prospect.
I must ask the House to listen to an argument which may take a little time to evolve, but the purpose of the White Paper is to direct Parliamentary and public attention in advance of the appearance of the Bill to the broad issues of policy and principle involved. People have thought for many years that if one could bring road and rail financial control under the same ultimate control, competition between the two would stop and co-operation would begin.
It was the hope of the last Government that this would happen and that the two great industries of road and rail together, under common ownership and leadership, would settle which traffic was suitable for which form of transport. At the back of people's minds was the belief that the roads, which can pick and choose more easily, could come to the aid, when necessary, of the railways.
But what was the result? Almost immediately after acquisition by public ownership of a large amount of road transport, road profits began to dwindle and then cease altogether. Instead of being able to help the railways, they themselves became a national obligation. These facts cannot be denied. The amount paid by the British Transport Commission for the goodwill of long-distance hauliers is generally thought to be £30 million. [An HON. MEMBER: "Too much."] If it was too much, it was a bad Government that made a bad bargain.
It is based on a two to five years' purchase of the net profit of those concerns over the base period. If one takes the top figure of five years as an average, these undertakings, therefore, were pre- sumed to be earning during that period an annual profit of £6 million. But in fact, of course, on the average number of years, the profit was much less than the maximum, and the annual profit of the acquired undertakings must therefore have been considerably more than £6 million.
The Road Haulage Executive, with enormous monopoly powers—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]I will come to all that. There is nothing of which we are frightened in this business and I know exactly what is in the minds of hon. Members. The Road Haulage Executive has never made a profit of anything like that, so we have had all the disadvantages of monopoly without any aid being available to help the nation or the railways.
The Road Haulage Executive and the British Transport Commission, of course, have worked with zeal and devotion and we are very grateful that public servants and private people are ready to come forward in that way. But they have been given an impossible task to discharge. They have been asked to produce a pattern making transport an end in itself to which trade has to subordinate itself, rather than taking the traders' needs as being paramount and making the transport system correspond to those needs.
On the roads the swift, economical and individual service that trade, industry and agriculture need has gone. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Hon. Members who call out "Nonsense" must remind themselves of some of the letters they themselves have written in recent years about the problems of their own constituents. A huge fleet of road transport vehicles under the control of a massive and impersonal organisation, working an elaborate system of depots, has not been able to meet the resilient and flexible demands of a large trading community.
In an effort to get out of these difficulties, a large number of people in recent years have taken out C licences. Hon. Members opposite, except at election time, do not like C licensees. Why have these people taken out these licences? People do not buy transport and have extra expense merely for fun. They have taken them out because they are not getting from the nationalised transport the service that they need. When the war broke out there were about 365 C licences. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] I am sorry, 365,000—I was referring to what might happen if we had another Socialist Government. For the first three years after the war, with the starting up again of retail trade delivery, there was naturally a large increase in the number of these licences. By 1946 there were 306,000, by 1947 they had jumped up to 487,000. Since the Act the number has increased from 487,000 to some 800,000 C licences.
What did the Socialists do? What was the typical Socialist reaction when faced with a problem of this kind? Was it to try to remedy the grievances which led to such a large increase? Not at all. Their remedy was to try and turn on the C licensees and draw them within the Socialist maw. They started turning on the C licensees and blaming them for the failure of nationalised transport. As the C licensees and many others will remember, the attack on them had begun far earlier than last year. We had the Transport Bill before the House in 1946 and 1947. There was then considerable pressure within the Socialist Party itself against including C licensees in the Bill.
We all know of the dislike of such a proposal of the Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Congress, for example, and there was also the determined Conservative opposition to any such inclusion. But I think Parliament would do well to remember, and so would the C licensees, that as the Socialist Bill was originally introduced, it provided that C licensees could not carry goods more than 40 miles without a special permit.
In the Standing Committee, however, a few weeks later, all the Clauses in the Bill relating to C licences were withdrawn. Why? It would be very interesting to know why. Was it possibly in part the opposition of the Co-operative wing of the Socialist Party? Would the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South call this one of their masters' voices? It was in part that, and I do not think anybody could deny it. But in large part it was the Conservative opposition to the inclusion of C licensees.
Then what happened? The Bill was passed, but ever since then there has been steady sniping by the Socialist Party at what they call the immunity of the C licensees. We had a Transport (Amendment) Bill last year. The hon. Members for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole) and Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) talked about the fatal surrender of the then Government over C licences and of traffic being filched away by C licensees from the railways. All this is on record, and I would ask C licensees and others to remember it and to remember also the continued threat to this sort of independence. When people are considering a levy as part of the broad plan, to which I shall come, they might well regard this levy as a small price to pay for freedom for some road hauliers and security for all.
We shall, no doubt, hear in the course of this debate a good deal of the opposition of trade unions and organisations of workers to the White Paper of Her Majesty's Government, but really the Opposition cannot get away with that. Every public print and innumerable post bags in the last few years have been full of illustrations of disaffection and disillusion among the men on the line and the men on the roads. We only have to turn up the newspapers to see the 16 resolutions down for hearing at the Scarborough Conference of the Socialist Party in October, 1951, drawing attention to managerial functions being more rigid and dictatorial in nationalised industries than under private enterprise.
If one does not regard Socialist Party gatherings as representing the wise opinion of the party—though why one should not I do not know—we can turn to "The Railway Review" itself. I was interested to read that it carried out a census of opinion among railwaymen. It was not published, so far as I can see anywhere—it may have been—except in the "Daily Worker." I do not remember reading it in the "Daily Herald," but I did see the results in the "Daily Worker."
I would rather give the Communists credit for printing what they do instead of doing what the "Daily Herald" apparently did—to ignore a matter of such vital concern to the workmen of this country.
What were the questions asked of the readers of "The Railway Review"? "Did you support the nationalisation of the railways?" Answer: 91 per cent. said "Yes." Question 2: Do you now feel that you have a share in running your railways?" Nine per cent. said, "Yes"; 9 per cent., "Don't know," and 82 per cent., No. "The next question was: "How do you find your job under nationalisation?" Five per cent. said, "More encouraging"; 42 per cent. said, "About the same," and 52 per cent. said, "More frustrating than under private enterprise."
I wanted to be fair to the architects of the great Act of 1947, so I looked at even more recent issues of "The Railway Review." Last August there was an interesting article by the secretary of the Eastern District Council, and he said:
Never in the history of industrialism in modern society did a group of employers and the Government of the day have such an amount of good will with which to start this great experiment, and never was good will so wantonly, almost criminally, thrown away.
He went on to say—and no doubt hon. Members who take part in these weekend demonstrations will remember it—
The meetings, the flags, the expressions of good will, the resolutions that met the dawn of a new era on the eve of nationalisation becoming a reality. … Where are we now?
He ended by saying:
Ask the first dozen railwaymen over 40 years of age whom you meet where they are, and the answer would hardly be printable.
So, in the course of today's debate, I hope we shall not hear much of the hypocrisy that pretends that the men are solidly behind this system and do not want to hear about any change.
I am hoping to be Minister of Transport for a long time, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will get into touch with me and see that I am brought up-to-date in that particular field. I hope we shall not hear much of what is really not very fair argument as to the solid support of those working in these industries behind the nationalisation proposals.
I see that in the Amendment to be moved by the official Opposition, there is a reference and quite rightly so—though not the terms of the Amendment, but the intention behind it—to the future conditions of employment of those employed in the industry. I should like to make certain things perfectly plain. In regard to the 80,000 people who are working today for and under the Road Haulage Executive, it is our belief that the vast majority of them will be as most of them were before, absorbed in private enterprise, and we will certainly take steps to see that such as might not be are justly and fairly treated. [Interruption.] I am coming on to the obligations if hon. Members will give me time. I cannot help making a long speech. In all these discussions we shall keep in the closest touch with the Trades Union Congress.
In regard to the conditions of men on the railways under the proposals of decentralisation, all questions of labour and pay will, of course, remain a national responsibility for the over-all organisation of the railways. As to the men working on the roads, it is Her Majesty's Government's intention to uphold fully and to implement to the letter the provisions of the 1930 Act dealing with hours of work and periods of rest, and the provisions in 'the 1933 Act dealing with the keeping of records and the obligation that vehicles shall he safe and trustworthy. We need everybody's co-operation in this, including that of the men themselves, and I hope we can look for support from hon. Members opposite in seeing that this genuine intention is fully implemented.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said about the workers in the industry, although I do not think it is adequate. Would he explain, or could he give us a glimmering, why the Government absolutely and completely forgot the work-people in the industry when they came to draft this White Paper? There is not a word about them.
The important thing when one is dealing with these matters of conditions of service is to be punctilious in looking after them. The important thing is not necessarily the words in which the intentions are announced. I am quite prepared, and so are my colleagues, to be judged by results in that regard. But of this I am confident: in the road haulage industry, about which I have known a good deal in recent years, what a large number of people regret more than anything else is the severance of the close personal relationship between the people employed and their employers which nationalisation has brought about.
I have tried to deal in broad outline with the position which we inherited when we won the last Election. We were then faced with the obligation to do something about a totally untenable position. Certain suggestions were made in the Press that we should deal with this problem piecemeal—for example, first of all and experimentally, by raising the 25-mile limit for road haulage. It appeared to the Government that the opportunity must be seized to try to lay down a broad and permanent fabric for the association of the two great industries of road and rail. I think all are agreed that the crucial problem is the relationship between road and rail.
There are two possible solutions to the problem of road and rail—and if hon. Members have any others, we are always glad to hear them. The first is to try to plan the whole operation of transport so that the most appropriate means is used for conveying traffic of different kinds. That is a fair description, I think, of what the Socialist Government intended to do. The British Transport Commission were told that that was the intention and that they were to get on with the job. They were to be the largest corporation of their kind in the world, but they were to have ability for detail and the flexibility of quite a small unit. That has totally failed, and no one can dispute the fact.
The other alternative is not to settle that a vast organisation is right for trade but to try to provide for each trade what, from its own experience and its own business, it knows that it needs—and that is what we are now trying to do. This demands getting a fair balance between road and rail. We shall never get a wholly fair balance between road and rail in this world. No one, I think, would suggest that we could. For example, if we arrived at a fair balance one day, a rise in the cost of coal or a rise in the cost of fuel oil would throw the whole plan out of gear.
Or a war. We can never get a wholly fair balance. We can try as far as we can to equalise the burden—and in connection with equalising the burden, there is a good deal of loose talk about the relative burdens. We ought to remember, in fairness to the road industry, that it pays an enormous, to our ancestors an unbelievable, amount in annual tax—some £350 million a year. The railways, on the other hand, and some railways sympathisers—and we are all railway sympathisers—regard the common carrier obligations as being a great handicap on them and look with irritation and resentment and with fury at what many of them regard as the road haulage industry taking the cream off the market.
In connection with common carrier obligations, the railways have always been treated as a single organisation and must, as hon. Members know, accept traffic offered between different stations. They have also the law of undue preference which many people think hits them hard. But for reasons which I need not explain to the House, the road haulage industry could not be treated as a single organisation. Railways have another handicap—the structure of their railway costs makes the margin of profit very dependent on the gross value of the traffic carried. Where distributive costs are very high in remote districts, they have been forced for years to subsidise these costs out of their more profitable routes.
Thus, there are certain considerations which may remain for a long time and, indeed, may always remain with us. These we have to face and recognise. Many difficulties are gradually being ironed out. The railways are no longer obliged to keep open stations or branch lines which are uneconomic. The freight charge schemes have been adjusted to allow for more flexibility, and if, recently, there appeared in some ways to be a desire for uniformity of rates for passenger traffic, that was not because of any legal provision but was a preference by the present Transport Commission themselves.
I think it is true to say that we cannot fix and preserve an absolutely fair balance between road and rail. Again, we must remember that what the trader pays for his transport is not the only basis on which he chooses it. What he has to pay is not the only consideration; there are others—speed and the safety of precious cargo and considerations of that kind. It seems to me that it is altogether a wrong approach to look at matters in such a way and to concentrate solely on trying to equalise the burden, rather than first looking to find out what trade, industry, agriculture and the people need, and then trying to get a transport system to meet those needs.
So far, I have been carrying the House a little further along what is bound to be an involved but very important argument. Should we, then, leave road and rail to fight out this ancient battle on their own? Of course, we cannot do that. If road haulage lost the battle, a large number of private people in the new setup would go out of business, which would be bad for them and bad for the country; but if the railways went out of business, of course the country would lose an absolutely irreplaceable asset.
The Government had, therefore, to try to design—and we think we have designed —a plan whereby agreement can take place between road and rail, based on the advantages which each have to offer, and which will not run the risk of ruining the railways. This involves the freeing of long-distance road haulage and the levy, to which I will come, both of which are inseparable from the plan.
I am very anxious that no one in the House should feel that any important matters are being hidden from them, and I should like to draw to everybody's attention one or two more detailed points in connection with the White Paper. What, for example, in this new set-up is to be the situation of the British Transport Commission and the various Executives? The Government having, in the best constitutional practice, laid down their broad policy, we shall consult the British Transport Commission and the Executives on the way in which particular and practical expression can be given to our intentions, but certain probabilities already emerge, and I think the House is entitled to know how far already certain things are clear.
The Road Haulage Executive will naturally disappear. The Road Passenger Executive will disappear. With the greater devolution of the load on the Railway Executive at headquarters, the load on the Railway Executive at headquarters will be much lessened. I do not think anyone would deny that with these reduced obligations it will not be necessary still to have a Transport Commission and a Railway Executive exactly as they were. It will, of course, be necessary to have a co-ordinating railway authority. Perhaps it may be along the lines of the old General Managers'Conference—
Perhaps I could be allowed to continue. There will also be a top-level body, whether the British Transport Commission—under that or some other name—or a similar body to look after broad policy on railways, on London transport, docks and canals and the equity holding of the Commission in the passenger services. The London Transport Executive will remain, but not necessarily as an Executive—perhaps as the old London Passenger Board used to be [An HON. MEMBER: "What a blue print!"]
The future of the Docks and Harbours Executive and the Hotels Executive will be discussed with the British Transport Commission and it may be that some of their functions may go to the new railway areas. At this stage I am not anxious to commit myself in any detail because, as the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly knows and has often said, these things ought to be discussed with the people who bear the present responsibility, and that Her Majesty's Government now propose to do.
The next thing I want to make quite plain is that the scheme-making powers of the Transport Commission in regard to passenger transport will be brought to an end. Hon. Members will remember Section 63 of the Socialist Act. There have been a number of tentative approaches for similar schemes in the northern area, the eastern area and the south-western area, but in all those areas there has been widespread local opposition. It now seems essential to bring that scheme-making power to an end, and that the Government have decided to do.
As for the licensing, it will remain over the diminished field. The road passenger services which the Commission continue to provide will be subject to the ordinary licensing procedure, but those services operating in the London Passenger Transport area will be subject to the old jurisdiction which prevailed in the days of the Passenger Transport Board only. So much for the broad intention in regard to the Commission and the Executives.
I now come to the sale envisaged in the White Paper of road haulage businesses. [An HON. MEMBER: "Jobs for the boys."] I would remind the hon. Member who called that out that a great many of these so-called "boys" to whom he referred built up these businesses from scratch and gave a vital national service. If that sort of source dried up, the prospects of this country's recovery would be absolutely nil.
In regard to the sale of road haulage assets, there are one or two observations I should like to make to the House. Her Majesty's Government will be glad to see the former owners of long distance road haulage undertakings come back again into the business. We are particularly anxious to see again those people who were compulsorily acquired and to whom no compensation, however high, was really a return for what they have lost, people who had spent their whole life in a business they had themselves created and who gave local and personal service to their friends and neighbours.
There are great difficulties in the way of giving any priority of re-entry to former long-distance hauliers. Many of the partnerships have been dissolved, businesses broken up and premises sold, but we hope to see them back and they should have no difficulty in getting back. The most important thing in order to secure that there should be a substantial number of moderate and small people back in the business is to see that there are a large number of small units offered for sale. It is far too early to say whether any particular facilities will be needed by the intending purchasers of transport units other than those normally available to them, but Her Majesty's Government will watch this problem with particular attention.
Any action which the Government may or may not be able to take must be consistent with general monetary policy. It is our intention to break up the Road Haulage Executive into units. Those units would represent as near as possible the pre-nationalisation pattern. There are bound to be some modifications. Some premises have been sold, and many areas have been altered. It will be difficult and in many cases impossible to restore the pattern as a whole, but, by and large, the old pattern represented natural development and it is our hope to see that restored.
I think I know what the hon. Member is going to say and I will give way if not. I think I know the way his mind is probably working. Perhaps he will let me finish this point and then I will certainly give way. He may say, "What is to stop large-scale monopolies acquiring the bulk of these undertakings?" There was nothing to stop it in the old days, but the road haulage industry is not essentially the sort of industry which lends itself to stop large-scale enterprise. It is essentially an industry of small and moderate-scale operators. If hon. Members question that, it would be interesting for them to look up the 1933 Act which especially provided that the licensing authority should ask all intending applicants whether they had a financial interest in some other road haulage undertaking. That power given to the licensing authority has rarely, if ever, been used. I will now give way to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd).
That was not the point 1 had in mind. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that the intention of the Government was to restore as far as possible the long-distance road haulage position as it was before nationalisation. The very important question I wish to ask is this: Having regard to the fact that something like half the road haulage before nationalisation was owned by the railway companies, is it the intention of the Government to restore that portion of road haulage to the railway companies?
I was coming to that matter, but, if the hon. Member wishes, I will deal with it at this point. The railway companies were divested of their road haulage interest on nationalisation. It is not the intention of the Government that those interests should be restored. [HON. MEMBERS: "Robbery."] Mr. Speaker, I heard cries of "robbery." Who were the robbers who took them away? The Socialist Government took them away.
The hon. Member says he has got it in. I grant that, but I would ask hon. Members in this matter to observe the spirit of the House, and not to use points of order to make points of debate.
Not only was that not a point of order, but it was not a point of history either. I was not dealing with acquisitions before nationalisation by the railways of road haulage interests, but with the fact that the divesting of the railways of their road haulage interests was carried out by the party opposite. The purpose of this particular exercise on which we are now engaged is to give them opportunities of service once more through private enterprise, and not to transfer from one nationalised industry to another vital national assets that are not being adequately used. So, as I say, we shall break up the Road Haulage Executive's assets into operable units.
I was asked whether it is intended that there should be a reserve price on the vehicles to be sold. There will of course, be a reserve price, fixed by the realisation agency, who will take account of the physical market value of the asset, the value of the A licence that will go with it, and the fact that a going concern is being transferred.
This leads me to another point in regard to road haulage. I must apologise for the length of this speech. This leads me to the question of the 25-mile limit being retained for those operators now subject to it other than those who may exceed it as a result of the sale of road haulage assets. I hope that all who will still be condemned—as they, not unnaturally, regard it—to the limitation on their freedom of movement will realise that this is a first step in giving back freedom to road haulage, and that it must be looked at in the light of the whole story.
We are determined, as soon as it can be done practicably, to lift the 25-mile limit altogether, and the Government make that intention absolutely plain. But we think that in the early stages of this transfer it must be retained for the following reasons: if it were lifted it would, undoubtedly, prejudice the sale of the assets, for there would be reduced protection to, those who purchase them; and it might, indeed, lead to the result of certain essential services not being discharged.
But I would remind all who will find themselves prevented from being allowed to go beyond the 25 miles for a period to realise that their difficulties must be-seen in the light of the freedom from nationalisation that they have enjoyed, which is entirely due to their having declared themselves to be short-distance hauliers, and their only handicap now is that they will be precluded, during the early period, from the exemption beyond 25 miles except through the permit system, which we have the intention of treating more liberally, or by the purchase of road haulage assets which will give them, as well as anybody else, an A licence.
En a moment I will give way. I should like just to complete this part of the argument. When the disposal board has disposed of a substantial part of the assets being sold as units and carrying with them the A licence, and with it a large measure of goodwill, then the 25-mile limit will be lifted; and meanwhile the Road Haulage Executive will run what will be a diminishing quantity of vehicles and units, as it does at present.
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. There is one point I want to ask him about. He said that he was not removing the 25-mile limit because if he were to do so that would depress the sale price of the assets which he wished to sell. If he proposes to get a purchase price for those assets on the basis of the 25-mile limit being retained, and at the same time says he is going to abolish it, what is he going to sell?
I was in fact just coming to that point. [Interruption.] Do hon. Gentlemen opposite not want to hear the answer to their hon. and learned Friend? The point of making it quite plain at the start is that there should be no misunderstanding about it in the future. I am anxious that it should be realised that there will be the protection for a period for all who are coming into long-distance haulage—[HON. MEMBERS: "For how long?"]—which will enable them to get started under conditions of relative protection. That protection cannot be indefinitely extended, nor would they wish it in an industry which has never been frightened to take commercial risks.
I come to one other feature of the road haulage proposals, and that deals with the proposed levy. I should be grateful if hon. Gentleman would follow me carefully in regard to this levy. The precise form the levy will take will be discussed with the county and county borough authorities who collect the vehicle Excise Duty. At this stage it is our belief that the best and simplest way would be to use the machinery of the vehicle Excise Duty. It will not be charged on those not exceeding one ton of unladen weight, and so will omit all the small delivery vans. [Interruption.] I said "not exceeding" one ton unladen weight. If hon. Members opposite would be a little quieter, they would hear these most important proposals.
The purpose of the levy is twofold: first, to offset any loss on the sale of assets by amortisation—and the period for which it will run will depend on what losses are incurred; and second, to offset traffic that may be diverted, as a result of the proposals, from rail to road. The Transport Tribunal will have a task, the difficulty of which I do not dispute, to decide when traffic has been so diverted.
[HON. MEMBERS: "How will it?"] All right. What sort of considerations? The sort of things we shall ask the Tribunal to consider will be these. How far has rail traffic in any one area declined in comparison with the general level of national productivity? How far has there been an increase of road traffic in that area? What evidence is there of actual transfer of contracts from rail to road? Those are difficult considerations, but not much harder than the obligations laid by the Socialist Government on the Transport Tribunal in the Transport Act.
If it is said that this is feather-bedding the railways—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] That argument has been used and that word is not altogether unknown on the benches opposite. If that is said, it would be a reflection on the railways. The zeal and devotion of railwaymen and railway executives has been in no way diminished because the Treasury guaranteed the interest on British Transport Stock, and we do not believe that this will lead to any other feeling of subsidy or inferiority.
That represents the broad plan to which the Government are committed and for which we ask the approval of the House. In this plan the railways will play a part of immense importance. If I have not given as much attention to the position of the railways as I have done to the roads, it is because it is not proposed to alter the national ownership of the railways or to undo the Act in that regard. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] We shall have a debate on this, concentrating on the de-centralisation of the railways. I do not believe that if the Socialist Opposition were the Government of today, they would do other than de-centralise railway administration. Most railway opinion is in favour of it. A set-up whereby Railway Executive members have full-time executive functions and give functional responsibilities to their various members in that way, instead of being merely a policy-guiding and policy-making authority, is clearly wrong.
I recognise that there have been certain valuable improvements as a result of the centralisation of certain railway services. We recognise the economies and the improvements that have been made, such as the central purchase of stores and equipment and features of that kind. We shall ask the Railway Executive to prepare for the approval of the Government a scheme to submit to me on the de-centralisation of railway administration. This scheme I shall lay before Parliament and there will then be an opportunity to debate it. It will settle the areas. If the Government agree—if my right hon. Friend agrees—[Interruption.] When and if the usual channels on both sides of the House agree to such a discussion, it will take place. It is our view that the railways must have greater freedom to reduce their charges when they wish in order to attract fresh traffic and, subject to subsequent approval by the Transport Commission, to be able to raise their charges without the lengthy delays that are now inevitable.
As the White Paper says, I am also looking carefully into the working of the 1930 Act in the light of the conditions prevailing today. Also, between now and the new Bill which will be presented to the House early in July on the White Paper, I shall look into a host of kindred problems.
I hope and believe that the House will agree that they have been given a great deal of information today in regard to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government, and that the good sense of the majority of our people, when the Bill comes before Parliament and the debates take place, will endorse the proposals which I am glad to present to the House today.
It would be right and appropriate and conventional that I should welcome the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) on the occasion of his first major appearance in the House after his appointment as Minister of Transport, and to wish him happiness in an office where I personally was very happy during two and a quarter years of my earlier life, in 1929 to 1931.
I wish I could congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the wisdom and clarity of his speech but I cannot, because I do not think it would be justified. Let me say at once, however, that I do not in any way blame the right hon. Gentleman. Here he is; he has to defend a White Paper, in the preparation of which, and in the preparation of the policy of it, he has not had the smallest hand. He was not, and he is not, a member of the Cabinet. He was concerned with our far-flung Colonial Territories as Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, and it is perfectly clear that he has had nothing whatever to do with this White Paper. Yet he has been saying what "we" have thought out, what "we" are proposing, what "we" think about this, that, and the other, though it is clear that he cannot include himself in the "we."
The scandal of this debate—and it is a scandal, a cowardly scandal—is that the man who is personally responsible for the policy embodied in the White Paper —if it can be called a policy—namely, the Prime Minister, is the man who ought to have moved this Motion this afternoon. Instead of that, in an unfair manner, he has passed the burden to a new Minister of Transport, who has had no hand in the preparation of this policy or the White Paper. The Prime Minister sits there letting his right hon. Friend get through as best he can, letting him face the attack which will now come from the official Opposition.
Why could not the Prime Minister, he being the author of this deed, have the courage to get up and expound the policy of the Government? Why was he not willing to receive the counter-attack? Why must he nearly always in debate put himself into such a position that he protects himself as far as possible from counter-attack?
That retort is a sign of the guilty conscience of the right hon. Gentleman.
In my opinion, when a Prime Minister takes hold of an issue of policy and becomes peculiarly the personal proprietor of that policy, he ought not to "pass the buck," not merely to a subordinate but to a Minister who has had no hand whatever in the framing of this policy. I think that the Prime Minister ought to be absolutely ashamed of himself.
The White Paper before us is entitled "Transport Policy." It is nothing of the kind. It is a disgraceful document. I will not charge the Prime Minister with having personally drafted it, because I will say this for him: that if he had personally drafted it its literary style would have been infinitely better than what it is. I do not know whether this was even drafted by civil servants. It reads to me as if it was drafted in the Conservative Central Office. It is one of the weakest, most contemptible White Papers I have ever seen. It is full of assertions without proof.
For example, in paragraph 2, it is asserted that:
In spite of the efforts made by the British Transport Commission and its Executives, integration of its road and rail services into a co-ordinated whole has made little progress, and shows little real prospect of developing. …
Progress has been made. Noticeable progress has been made, and it shows every sign of developing. This quotation is a categorical assertion, without any attempt at proof.
It says that the administration of the railways has "become excessively centralised under the Act," and it charges the Road Haulage Executive with having an "elaborate system of depots." I very much doubt whether the railways are more centralised than they were under the four private companies. I would think that, in some respects, the processes of decentralisation were beginning and proceeding; and as to the elaborate system of depots of which there are 1,000 under the Road Haulage Executive, the very existence of these 1,000 depots is conclusive proof of the principle of decentralisation; and, therefore, this is again contrary to the facts.
The Government propose to dispose of the Road Haulage Executive and to sell the units in what are called operable units to the highest bidder. They are also proposing, alternatively, to do nothing further about the Road Passenger Transport, but to leave it in private hands or municipal hands, as the case may be, which will involve further difficulties with the railways and the Transport Commission as, no doubt, it is intended to do.
They are also proposing to give to the Transport Commission and the Tribunal, together, powers to increase or decrease fares, subject to the overriding powers of the Minister. A little while ago there was great denunciation in the House of the excessive powers of the Transport Commission. It is now, apparently, proposed to give them added powers in connection with the raising as well as the lowering of fares.
Then we come to this extraordinary proposal, which I think is indefensible from any point of view, namely, the levy on the road haulage industry which is to be imposed to assist the railways. I was very doubtful if I would ever reach agreement on any point, in the sphere of policy we are discussing, with the British Roads Federation, but I confess that, in the document which they have circulated to Members of Parliament, I think that the Federation make a case against this levy. From any point of view this levy is wrong. If it is to subsidise the railways, then it is liable not to encourage efficiency nor to stimulate it; if it is a levy of a penalising character upon road transport it is an additional burden on road transport; and, in any case, the product of £4 million is ridiculous and is a flea bite in relation to the problems which the railways are going to face.
It may well be that this is the beginning of a big new tax on road commercial transport which is also carrying big burdens, as is passenger transport, in relation to the Petrol Duty, ordinary taxation, and so on. If this is a resort of the Government simply because, having taken the road haulage industry out of the hands of the Commission and transferred it to private enterprise they are then faced with doing something for the railways, how infinitely preferable it would be to go on with the policy of co-ordination and integration and effect economies between both systems, rather than imposing a new tax upon one section of the transport industry to help another. It is a preposterous proposal which will be ineffective in helping the railways and annoying and irritating to the rail-road industry. Therefore, I say that the White Paper does not contain a policy, and that it is misnamed.
It was significant that in defending his policy the right hon. Gentleman, who, in the Spanish Civil War, was an open, frank and confessed champion of the cause of General Franco as against the Republic, went so far as to rely for his criticisms of nationalisation upon the Communist "Daily Worker" or other semi-Communist sources.
That census, as I understand it, was not carried out by the National Union of Railwaymen, and it must be understood that the "Railway Review" is a privately-owned venture. That should please the right hon. Gentleman. It is a co-operative society.
I say that it is significant that the right hon. Gentleman, with his political past, should instinctively fall back upon Communist sources or be sympathetic with them to produce an argument. If there was ever any doubt in the mind of working people as to the wisdom of public ownership, this White Paper has removed any such doubt. The whole of the workers in the transport industry are against this White Paper—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] —or, at any rate, near enough of the whole of the workers in the transport industry. Anyway, the Tory Party lost a life-long member from the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association last week.
These assertions are made in the White Paper, and I want to know: how do the Government know these assertions? What evidence have they got showing their truth? Have they just accepted Conservative Central Office and Road Haulage Association views, because there is no real evidence in the White Paper? Moreover, there has been no consultation—that is admitted—before this policy was published, with the Transport Commission or the Executives.
The defence of the right hon. Gentleman is that before the introduction of the Transport Bill, 1947, there was no adequate consultation with private interests. When one is going to nationalise an industry, one has to be careful about entering into certain types of consultation with private interests beforehand, because otherwise the public interest, in compensation, and so on, may be damaged; but this is a public concern. It is part of our public service, and I should have thought that they are in a much different position and ordinarily entitled to consultation.
After all, there is as the Chairman of the Transport Commission a man with unique and unrivalled experience in public transport. At the Ministry of Transport he served me with great ability from 1929 to 1931. In the Transport Commission and the Executives and the staffs there are transport men of unique experience whose views ought to have been obtained.
The trade unions also have a great knowledge of the transport industry. The railway unions and the transport workers' union have lived with the problems in the industry for many years, as I know personally, and they have great knowledge and their views would have been of valuer Moreover, bound up in the future of the industry is the interest and livelihood of nearly a million workpeople whose cooperation, to put it at the lowest degree of governmental self-interest, is highly desirable in the public interest.
But what does the Government do? It has totally ignored the trade unions in the industry and the Trades Union Congress just as it has ignored the Transport Commission. Like the Secretary of State in another place, the right hon. Gentleman has this afternoon had to say, "Do not worry. We shall not forget the work-people. There are certain things which we shall look into, and in any case we believe that their employment will be even safer under the new regime than it was before."
I do not believe that. Nor do I believe that their standard of employment will be as good as it was. Nor do I believe that the safety of the vehicles which they are to drive will be as great as it was before. It is elementary that the Government should have consulted the Transport Commission, the Executives and the trade unions, because, after all, they are playing about with the livelihood, the safety and the security of nearly one million people in the industry. To ignore them and their leaders is wrong.
When the Government came into office—it has also happened since—the leaders of the trade union movement said that they would treat the Government like any other Government in the ordinary way of fair negotiations between the trade unions and the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not."] I agree. I agree with what those leaders said, and I have already said so. Also, when those trade unions leaders were faced with the proposition that there should be strikes of a political character against the Government's political policy they fought that tendency, as I did, too I believe that the British trade union leaders today deserve praise for the stand of principle which they made and for their constitutional and patriotic spirit.
How does it help responsible trade union leaders when the Government are irresponsibly playing about with a vast industry of this sort and brings in a White Paper which commits it as to policy without a word of consulation with the trade union organisations representing the work-people in the industry? As a consequence they will face not only the resentment of the trade union leaders concerned—those leaders are entitled to be resentful—but also a bitter feeling among hundreds of thousands of the workpeople, and we could well have done without that in the difficult economic circumstances with which we are faced.
What will happen to the 80,000 or so Road Haulage Executive employees? The right hon. Gentleman, like the Secretary of State in another place, hopes for the best. They do not know what will happen to the 80,000 or so employees. I do not believe they care. They certainly do not know. They have no scheme for the allocation of the 80,000 workpeople among the highest bidding purchasers of the operable units. Are these 80,000 human beings, these decent, average British chaps, to be put up for auction with the operable units to see whether the new private owners and employers will take them? Have the Government the least idea what is to happen to them?
What about Sections 98 and 101 of the Transport Act, 1947, which provided, in essence, that as to conditions of employment and pension the people in the industry before nationalisation should not have their position worsened as a result of nationalisation? The right hon. Gentleman did not say a word about that. As the Prime Minister is to speak, I ask him to deal with these matters so that we may know what will happen.
What about the staff? There is a considerable staff in the organisation. Ninety-five per cent. of the management of the Road Haulage Executive actually came out of the private industry itself before nationalisation. Are these men to have no consideration? Are they not to know what their future is? There are also the new technical staffs—engineers, architects, and so on—the products of this bigger and co-ordinated industry, who, with the others, are loyally continuing in the industry notwithstanding the threats of the Government. What is to happen to them? They are entitled to know. They should not be left with the impression, which they rightly have at the moment, that they are to be thrown on the scrap heap after the sale of the operable unite to the highest bidders has taken place
None of these people were consulted. Perhaps somebody will tell us if the Road Haulage Association was consulted in any way. Will somebody tell us whether the Road Haulage Association contributed to Tory Party funds, and, if they did, how much they paid? Did Her Majesty's Government fall to such depths that they felt that as a consequence of these things they were under an obligation to the Road Haulage Association in this matter?
It is all very well for the Home Secretary to sit here laughing cynically. He was one of the star orators of the road haulage people, as he was of the British Housewives' League. All the signs are that in this business the Government have been, are and will be animated by doctrinaire considerations and party dogma first and by the public interest and the facts a long way after.
Let us examine the case for coordination. Let us, first of all, have a look at the road commercial transport industry. I do not deny that in many respects the road commercial transport industry has done a good job. I do not assert that everything was bad in that industry, because that would be unfair, but by its nature, under large numbers of separate and conflicting private ownerships, there had to be a scramble for traffics instead of orderly catering for traffics. [HON. MEMBERS: "Orderly?"] That is true. Although hon. Gentlemen opposite may not agree with me, it is a point which is not only worthy of consideration but has been commended by some public inquiries, as I shall show later.
There was no orderly plan. There were services which were thick on the ground and services which were thin on the ground, with no guarantee of really consistent service throughout the country. There were freight charges without consistency, tending to be high charges on the routes of high demand and light on the routes of slack demand. The standard of the vehicle maintenance, the labour conditions, and, if I may say so, the standard of compliance with the law varied very much indeed, and the consequences of this were not only bad for the working people concerned; they were bad for the public safety as well.
There was inevitably, in this loose and disorganised industry, an insufficiency of a high standard of vehicle service and of standards of management. Again, we do not assert that everything was bad, but there was a lot that was bad. The road transport commercial industry had advantages. It had elasticity of movement. It could move about from one route or road to another. It could easily conduct emergency runs which were necessary in unforeseen circumstances, and it could pick up and set down the traffic anywhere. That is the case of the road commercial industry, and I do not think that any transport man would say that I am far wrong on the facts. I have tried to state them as fairly as I can.
Let us look at the railways. They have the advantage of possible speed from rail point to rail point. There are no obstructions except the signalman, who must function, it is true, but there is the possibility of greater speed from rail point to rail point. They can handle large and heavy loads. They are common carriers; that is to say, they must take any traffic that offers. That is an advantage to the public, although it is a disadvantage to the railways in many respects. They effect a saving of the Queen's highway, because they provide their own permanent way and they are essential so far—the future may determine otherwise with other inventions—in times of peace and in times of war.
On the other hand, their picking up and setting down of passengers and traffic can only be done at fixed points. Their routes are fixed because of the permanent way. The speed of the trains is sometimes impeded because there are not sufficient tracks whereby the trains can pass each other. They have the disadvantage of being the common carrier, and I am told that it is the case that a trader will at times send his packed goods by road and then have the empties sent back by rail at a very low rate. They are entitled to some sympathy on this unprofitable traffic.
I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said, and if he means that it is a peculiar and justifiable privilege of the C licence holder to carry his own profitable traffic one way and then send the unprofitable part of the traffic by rail at a low rate he is thereby admitting that exact part of the problem of co-ordination which we are arguing about today.
Then there are the fundamental economics of the railways. They carry a high and largely fixed capital expenditure as well as maintenance and running charges, and whether their traffics are high or low they have to carry those capital maintenance and loan charges. Therefore, it is important that the railways should carry as high a load of traffic as possible, because whether they carry a 75 per cent. load or a 25 per cent. load the bulk of those charges have got to go on, and as the White Paper says in paragraph 11—there is this degree of wisdom in it—
The railways must remain an essential element in transport, and cannot be allowed to fall into decay.
What is the good of the Government saying that and then outlining in the White Paper a policy which is encouraging the very decay to which reference is made?
I have indicated the problem of the railways and the problem of the highways and the advantages and disadvantages of the railway and road transport system. What is the moral of all this? Surely the common sense, rational moral is to marry the advantages of each system of transport and cancel out the disadvantages of each form of transport to the greatest possible extent. Surely the great thing is to bring them together so that rail can do the job it is best suited to do, road can do the job it is best suited to do, and, above all, that both of them together can do the great transport job that our country requires to be done.
The Prime Minister says, "Hear, hear," but that is the very reverse of what he is doing in the White Paper. I must be very careful here, because the last thing I wish to discourage is any sign of converting the Prime Minister to the essential fundamental economies of the matter. If the Prime Minister has the point that rail has advantages and disadvantages, road has advantages and disadvantages, and that the thing is to many the advantages and so cancel the disadvantages that we get a co-ordinated, collective system, he is on the right lines and we are on the way to educating him in the matter. There is still hope for the sinner that may yet repent.
The Prime Minister says that he has it all written down in his notes. I am delighted. Let us hope he will develop it in his speech which, I understand, he is to make, and which will be the third Ministerial utterance of this debate, the second of the three this afternoon.
I have already said what I thought about the Prime Minister speaking. He ought to have opened this debate and he is a bad man for not having done so.
What is the inevitable conclusion of the consideration to which I have drawn attention? The policy that I have indicated, and with which the Prime Minister shows signs of agreeing, leads us to a vigorous policy of co-ordination of some sort. I am not saying what sort at this moment, but it leads to a policy of coordination. This is not doctrinaire, party stuff I am now saying. The word "co-ordination" was once favourably employed even by the Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power in the House of Lords, in 1943, when he was Minister of Transport. He found it very difficult to get the word over the other day, because he had a brief which, if I am not mistaken, was dictated by the Prime Minister himself and the Prime Minister was sitting on the steps of the Throne to see that the Secretary of State did not divert from it.
The word "co-ordination" was extensively used by railway company leaders in pre-war days. They sought arrangements with road transport and they sought Parliamentary and road operating powers. Even some road transport operators have been heard to use the word "coordination." Lord Ashfield spent the major part of his life in promoting the co-ordination of London passenger transport facilities. The trade unions are in favour of co-ordination, indeed, strongly in favour of it. Co-ordination was supported by authoritative inquiries. There has been no authoritative inquiry leading up to the present White Paper by Her Majesty's Government. The trade and technical journals support co-ordination. So does the "Economist," which is opposed to the White Paper.
I now want to quote the Royal Commission on the Co-ordination and the Development of Transport. The Chairman of this Commission was a former Conservative Minister, well-known to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who once met him in politically mortal combat at Mitcham. My right hon. Friend won. I am referring to the late Sir Arthur Griffiths-Boscawen, who made this Report to me. I might add that I thought Sir Arthur rendered a conspicuous public service by presenting this Report. This Royal Commission, presided over by a Conservative ex-Minister in 1931—I certainly remember it; I have every reason to—said this:
Nationalisation of the railways alone—leaving other forms of transport in other hands—would certainly not produce any real co-ordination of transport.
It appears to us that without unification —however it may be accomplished—no attempt to bring about complete co-ordination would be successful.
I come to the Salter Conference of 1932 on road and rail transport. By the way, who was this "Salter"? I am trying to recall the connection of that time. I have it. He is the very same man who is now the blue-eyed boy of the Prime Minister, the Minister of State for Economic Affairs; the same one. This conference presided over by him, said:
We believe that the best division of function will be obtained mainly through the deliberate effort of those engaged in road and rail transport to co-ordinate their services and give the public the full advantages of complementary service.
I want to know what the Minister of State for Economic Affairs is doing in the Government, when he has subscribed to that policy and now is subscribing to another. He very wisely is not here today. He is in another place, and he may yet be in still another place. I hear rumours that he may be promoted to a
place where he can meditate upon the economic policies of Her Majesty's Government. He may become an overlord.
There is the evidence of all those nonpolitical sources, impressive non-political evidence. What are the Government doing about it? Flying right in the face of all that impressive non-political evidence. The conclusion cannot be escaped that co-ordination is best achieved under some form of common ownership. At this point I am not saying "public ownership": but directly we get to the point of some form of common ownership we have to choose between a great private monopoly under common ownership and a great public concern. The country is in favour of the latter. The Liberal Party used to believe in it, when they received nonparty advice of a technical character. The Liberal Party did, up to a point, pronounce in favour of this doctrine, even though the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has slipped them back since.
In this difficult business of co-ordination, planned development was actually proceeding under the British Transport Commission. After all, it is only a few years since these new bodies were set up, and they have had to do much complicated re-organisation, with thousands of acquisitions, before results could begin to show. Let us remember what the Home Secretary himself said. He has been useful to me on more than one of these occasions. On 16th December, 1946, the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) said that in the case of the amalgamation of only four railway companies under the Railways Act, 1921, it took from eight to 10 years for the amalgamation to become effective, and he predicted that the Transport Act of 1947 would take a decade before it could become effective.
The Act has been in operation for only a limited number of years. The Road Haulage Executive has only had about 31 years of actual executive operations. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who said that this would take 10 years now sits on the Government Front Bench and has the assurance to say that there is something wrong because these Execu- tives have not done in 3½ years what he said would take 10 years.
Will the right hon. Gentleman intimate in support of his argument what advance they have made in the 3½ years to show that the job will be finished in less than 10 years?
I am not quarrelling with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, but with what he is doing. Having said that he would give these organisations 10 years before they reached completion, he is now jumping in at the end of 3½ years and complaining that they have not done in that period what he said would take 10 years. He is now going to stop them.
The right hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I did not say that these organisations should be given 10 years. I said that the Socialist plan was so bad that it would not be complete in 10 years.
No, no. The right hon. and learned Gentleman can get it looked up, and so will my hon. Friends. Let both sides look it up. The whole point of his argument was that the Railways Act of 1921, which merely merged four private companies, took from eight to 10 years to do the business, and he prophesied that the Transport Act of 1947 would take 10 years—a reasonable prophecy.
I say that what the Government are now doing is utterly unfair. Results are being shown, and the results will increase continuously as the years pass. The British Transport Commission's finances have been improving. I understand that the indications are pretty certain that their last year's financial operations will show a modest profit after fixed charges and other charges have been paid, and I think that is a remarkable achievement.
Let us remember that the Government are not helping the transport industry. They have increased the taxation on petrol, and private enterprise in petrol has put the price up. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Abadan?"] If hon. Gentlemen opposite think that I am in the least worried by an ignorant observation of that sort, they are wrong. Abadan does not explain the price of petrol. If hon.
Gentlemen are going on with calling out "Abadan," we shall have to start calling out "China."
The Prime Minister said, "How shocking for an ex-Foreign Secretary to say that." I am getting rather weary of the point that hon. Gentlemen opposite are to attack me and when I defend myself the Leader of the House looks shocked and the Prime Minister tries to look shocked but can do no more than look perfectly happy and amused—to which we are accustomed.
Results are being shown, but they are not helped by the reduction in the subsidies on food, which will of course stimulate the unions into wage applications.
So I gathered.
The Minister of Transport said that the Road Haulage Executive had had financial troubles and losses. But is it not the case that their profit in 1951 is expected to be between £3 million and £4 million? Why did he not say so? Why should a Minister of Transport deliberately hide these achievements?
As the right hon. Gentleman has asked me a direct question I will answer it. As I think he knows, the financial statement of accounts from the British Transport Commission has, by invariable practice, been published with the annual account of its operations. Late last evening I received the financial statement, but not the report. Under normal practice that financial statement would wait until the full account of its operations is ready.
I am quite prepared to consider the matter to see whether, in view of the imminence of a Transport Bill, we should not consider publishing the financial statement in advance of the full report. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, as I received it only last night it is a little difficult—[Interruption.] I am prevented from disclosing the accounts until the published facts are put before Parliament, under my statutory duty—[Interruption.]
If I followed the custom of Socialist Ministers of Transport I should not publish that until the full operational story was also available. What I have said I will consider doing is publishing it in advance of that full story. No one, I think, should be entitled to say that that was covering anything up.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I am not complaining that official publication cannot proceed at this point.
It is said that the Transport Commission, and especially the Road Haulage Executive, has the complete monopoly of road commercial traffic. That is commonly said in Conservative quarters and in the Conservative Press. My goodness. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, there is the whole problem of the C licences, and I do not disguise the fact that I am not satisfied yet about the C licence position—legally or otherwise. There is no monopoly.
The Road Haulage Executive owns 40,000 vehicles out of a total of 800,000 commercial vehicles upon the road— about 5 per cent. I am not dealing with car mileage. I admit that it will show better for the Road Haulage Executive on that point. To talk of 40,000 out of 800,000 vehicles as a monopoly is typical stuff from the Tory Central Office. And I am told that their charges are, on the average, less increased than private enterprise charges have been.
I ask any Conservative businessman opposite—if he were here I would ask the Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power; and if the Lord President of the Council were here, the gentleman who acquired Selfridge's to add to his monopoly a little earlier, I would ask him—[HON. MEMBERS: "What monopoly?"] I should have thought that the progressive acquisition of great retail stores by Lewis's, animated by the Lord President of the Council when he was not a Minister, was a monopolistic tendency. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) reminds me, he having a wider vocabulary than I have, it is an octopus tendency that is proceeding.
I ask any of these Tory businessmen: if they had gone to the trouble of acquiring a variety of undertakings and had started upon the process of co-ordinating them and integrating them to make a more solid, co-operative and prosperous concern—because that is what we have been doing—which of them would try to sell off one of the parts that, on the whole, is a little more profitable than the other parts? I wish the Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power were here so that I could ask him and get an answer. Would he, who has been in many businesses, of a wide and varied character, sell them off if this were private enterprise? Would the Lord President do so? Would Lord McGowan do so in the case of I.C.I.? Would any of these dear Tory capitalist friends of the Prime Minister do what he is recommending the House of Commons to do this afternoon? No, Sir. They would do nothing of the kind.
The charge of little integration is unfair. There has been progress. There had to be organisation created, plus planning, and then action. There are one or two things that I will mention, and my hon. Friends will no doubt mention others. There has been a development of collection and delivery work for other Executives at 30 centres. Road transport substitution has enabled railways to close uneconomic branch lines. Joint railway-road services on cross-country routes have been organised. Economies and more speed have been achieved, and there is more to follow. Joint services are being established for the collection and delivery by the Road Haulage Executive and long hauls by the Railway Executive so as to bring the two services into their best spheres. There is mutual assistance between the Executives, now developing fast, in many ways for efficiency and economy. But, as I say, I could give a long list of the beginnings, notably in 1951, of economies and co-ordination which are a great advance.
But they cannot go slap-dash on this matter, and the traders have to be carried with them in order that their goodwill shall not be lost in the process of making this a common and co-ordinated service. The possibilities of all this are vast and continuous, and the great visions, not of railwaymen, not of road transport men, but of real transport men who believe in this great transport industry as a whole are at last coming true; and my ideal of a transport system which will take people and goods from anywhere to anywhere by the most expeditious means and in the most economical way is on the road for the first time in our history.
In these circumstances, when progress is being made, along comes this anarchist-minded Government, blundering in like a bull in a china shop, first of all clamping down and stopping developments in the industry, which they did. Then they come along with this tragic, destructive, badly drafted White Paper, which not only puts the clock back but slashes it to pieces. Even informed Tory back benchers are unhappy about this policy. I doubt whether the Cabinet are united about it. There have freely been talks about splits. But who knows? They may be united in this sense, that they are all united against the policy were it not for the Prime Minister scattering his directives and his dictatorial orders about.
This White Paper is a surrender to the Tory wild men and the interests behind the Conservative Party. The Government are going to sell the cream of transport and leave the skim to the British Transport Commission. The Prime Minister has taken a step which is fraught with the most serious consequences for the political life of our country. It has not, generally speaking, been the tradition of one Government to reverse in drastic fashion the actions of its predecessor, particularly in these matters of fundamental economic importance. But now that the right hon. Gentleman has started us on this dangerous course—and it is he and the Government who have started it—it is right, it is in the public interest, that I should make clear the attitude of Her Majesty's Opposition. For this the responsibility and the blame is in particular that of the Prime Minister.
We have our public duty, and our public duty in these circumstances is to say, as I do on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for Members on this side of the House, that in our judgment it is only fair and proper to the nation and to the interests of possible innocent investors, to indicate to everybody concerned the shape of things to come. I say this not in any way as a threat. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No— not in any way as a threat, but as a public duty and as an act of decency towards possible innocent people, possible dupes and possible reckless speculators.
Having indicated that, let me ask the House this. Supposing I did not say anything about this, supposing the Opposition kept silent and then, when we won the next Election, we proceeded to do what I am going to indicate we shall do, would not the Opposition say, "Why did you not tell us this?" Therefore, I repeat that I say these words not in any spirit of hate, spite, vindictiveness or heat, but as an act of democratic duty and decency towards the people involved and towards the nation as a whole.
This is what I want to say. If the electorate support us next time, as seems very likely, and a Labour Government with a working majority is returned to Parliament, we shall return to public ownership such operable units as are necessary for a co-ordinated transport system. We reserve the right to leave in the hands of private owners services or vehicles which for any reasons are not needed or, because of neglect, are not worth having.
Furthermore, I think I should indicate the broad principles which we shall follow in working out the necessary financial arrangements. It is obviously impossible to indicate these in detail, but we shall see to it that the public purse does not pay again for what has already been paid for out of the funds of public authority. Moreover, if the Government imprudently let the transport units go at a knock-out price, as it looks as if they will have to do, we will not allow the nation to be exploited as a consequence. In the case of assets which private owners dissipate or fail to maintain, such assets, if needed, will be re-acquired on terms that will not involve the public in loss.
In short, we will pay compensation, but only on terms which will fully safeguard the public interest and which will prevent private speculators from making profits at the public expense out of the Government's reckless folly and their willingness to serve private greed. The Labour Party do not believe in confiscation of private property. [Interruption.] No—we have consistently rejected such ideas. We have shown in practice that we stand for fair compensation, but we are no less opposed to the confiscation of public property. At any rate, in part, that is what the Government and their interested friends are proposing to do. If they so act, they must take the consequences.
That is our case against the White Paper and against these proposals. That is our intimation that we thought it our decent public duty to make as to the course we shall pursue when we are returned to power. In view of the strong case which, I trust, I have made—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, I have—and of that case being strengthened by my right hon. and hon. Friends who will follow in the debate, I trust that the Government will have second thoughts and will reconsider the disastrous course which they propose to follow in the White Paper.
I hope that the House will excuse me on this occasion if I speak with some feeling upon this matter, having spent a good deal of my life in the railway service. During the whole of that time I tried to bring about the greater co-ordination of road and rail, to the advantage of transport in general and to the benefit of those serving in the industry.
I do not think any of us feels that the Transport Commission, in the short time they have been in existence, have done a bad job. I beg the House to realise that I think the greatest evil that can befall a great industry is to become the play of party politics. I believe that that is the view held generally on this side of the House.
I do not pay much attention to things which are put in election manifestoes—I very rarely issue them to my constituents and I prefer my own election addresses; but I do say this: whatever may have been in an election manifesto, surely what we ought to do is to try to have an objective view as to the position today.
I should like to say how much I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which he presented a most difficult case. I appreciate the very short time he has had to master it and the fact that some of us have been 30 years at this work and we do know something about it. I think he will learn, and I am quite sure that his promises of the way in which he will carry out his duties he certainly means to perform.
I still have many friends in the transport industry, and it is a strange fact that I have not met one person who approves of this White Paper. I have tried hard to understand how it is going to work. I feel that there are more blemishes than benefits about it. I think the proposal with regard to the levy is going to be quite disastrous for the relationship between the road and rail services. Who on earth is to say whether the railways are inefficiently run? I am told it is the Transport Tribunal. How can they properly know that? How easy it would be to produce endless controversy by claiming that this levy is being wrongly paid to the railways because they have not carried out something they should have done.
At this juncture I should like to speak of the years when I was dealing with railway matters. As a matter of fact, I am the only survivor of the proceedings in this House and upstairs with regard to the 1921 Act of the 1918 Parliament. I then acted as Secretary to the railways and we brought about the amalgamation of 37 different companies into the four mainline companies and the London Passenger Transport Board. In mentioning the London Passenger Transport Board, I should like to say that one of the happiest periods of my railway existence was when I was working with Lord Ashfield and Frank Pick—and do not let us forget what a good man he was and what he did for London Transport.
Time and again I tried to pilot the Railway Bill through this House and I say, quite frankly, that I would rather have nationalisation of railways than the humbug that we then had, of free enterprise controlled by politicians in the House of Commons. One Bill after another was brought here and on any matter we brought up—as when we tried to effect economies by closing branch lines—there was an immediate opposition on the part of everybody in the district. I am not saying that it is not the duty of Members of Parliament to protect the interests of their constituents, but I say it is perfectly fantastic to accuse the railways of being badly run by private enterprise when this House—ever since the canal days—has been so afraid of a monopoly that it has hamstrung the railways in every possible way.
We tried to get road powers for the railways, but they were refused. Then we had air services. They were developing well but they were taken away—and now some people turn and accuse the railways of not being efficient. The major cause of railway inefficiency is the action of politicians in the House of Commons over generations.
It is no use being destructive in these matters. One has to be constructive; but how this White Paper is to be turned into something constructive and workable, I do not know. I rely upon the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman that his mind is open and that he wishes people to make contributions in this and subsequent debates to get a really workable scheme.
I remember the days when I was on the railways, when one of the greatest difficulties I had was to refute the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) —I will call him that for the occasion—when he spoke in favour of nationalising the railways. We had at that time to put up as hard a case as we could in defence of private enterprise. Now what has happened? Now we have the railways remaining nationalised—which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister apparently always wanted—but we are taking away any possibility of their ever paying.
I do not know whether some hon. Members may remember it, but I have here one of our publications, called "Clear the Line," issued in the days when we were trying to educate public opinion about the essential need, for the trade of the country, to have co-ordination between road and rail. We hardly succeeded in getting it. I would point out that after all those years of struggle to improve the communications of this country, and the terrific test the railways stood up to in the war—thanks to the marvellous service of all the men working on road and rail, when they gave a 24-hour service although they were bombed night and day, and never failed in their mission —surely it is right, when making any great change of policy, to take some trouble to know what the men feel about it? We shall never make any scheme succeed unless we have the good will of the men.
I have been very puzzled about the way in which this case has been presented. I remember, not so long ago, supporting my right hon. and learned Friend the Home
Secretary when he made a speech—of which I have here an extract which I propose to read—on 23rd July, 1947. He said:
The right hon. Gentleman"—
the then Minister of Transport—
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. Secondly, you may have the imposition of such grave obligations on the Commission that it cannot pay its way on the present charging scheme which it has got up. Then it has to go back for further charging schemes and, as the right hon. Gentleman and every hon. Member knows, there comes a point where you cannot depend upon getting a return from increased charges.
Thirdly, we want to strengthen the hands of the Minister in the direction of freights. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council and Leader of this House has emphasised on many an occasion that, if the public corporation is to succeed at all, it must be protected from its charges and its fares being subjected to political pressure. Now the direction of the Minister is the vehicle of political pressure, and it is in order to restrict that possibility, to keep the Transport Commission within the unsullied lines which the Lord President of the Council has laid down as desirable, that we feel we cannot let opposition to the rejection of this Amendment go."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1947; Vol. 440, c. 1251]
I supported that Amendment, and I did so because I believed that at last we were going to be free of political pressure on the railways and transport services. But are we?
I want to try to put the position as I understand it. I do want to understand the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I am not quite sure whether I have done so. There are, in regard to the railways, two sorts of road services. First, there is road haulage. Road haulage consists of various undertakings, and there were 45 of those undertakings which were formerly owned or controlled by the mainline railway companies. We fought hard to get those-and we got them-in order to improve the public services. Are those services to remain with the railways or are they not? [HON. MEMBERS: "They are not"] I should like to know. There are 45 undertakings, some of which are like Pickford's and Carter Paterson, and it is essential, if we are to get an efficient railway service, that we should allow them a certain amount of road transport.
What about these other people? I am now talking about the undertakings which the mainline companies bought. There are 432 undertakings which were acquired by voluntary agreement. They have been bought by ordinary commercial agreement between the railways and the people who sold them. What is to be done with them? The parties concerned have Carried out this bargain; surely it is ridiculous to upset it. These vehicles belong to the Transport Commission, and have been paid for. These surely cannot be taken away.
Then there are 225 other undertakings which were taken over by the Transport Commission at the request of their owners. Are those to be taken away? Why should not the freedom we hear so much about be left with the people who voluntarily entered into these arrangements. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite will not cheer this. There are 2,165 other undertaking which have been compulsorily acquired. They are in a very different category. I think there is a great need for great care to be taken to make a distinction between them and those that belonged to the railways before nationalisation, the organisations which were voluntarily taken over and those which were taken over by request. How many Members realise the size of this business? There are nearly 40,000 vehicles. It is true that road haulage will have made a profit on the last working year of nearly £3 million, and that is very good.
I now wish to turn to the rail-road services, which are another category that should not be confused with the one I have just been talking about. We have what we call the collection-and-delivery service which is very much to the benefit of the public. Is it really proposed to take this away? I do not know. We have 40,000 vehicles engaged in that business. Members of the National Union of Railwaymen operate those services as part of the railways. I do not know how many of these men there are dealing with those 40,000 vehicles, but those delivery vans are vital to the success of the railway service. I do not know whether they are to remain or not.
There are, in addition, certain long-distance forms of vehicle such as road horse boxes, etc., which are operated by the railway service and which are part and parcel of the organisation. It seems to me that we ought to know a little more about that. There is not a word in the White Paper to give one any indication at all.
I have already spoken too long, and I apologise, but I wish to ask the House to consider this matter from a practical and not a political point of view. The country needs continuity more than anything else. If I may, I should like to say one thing not connected with the White Paper. My view is that the great disaster to Parliamentary institutions at present is the lack of freedom of conscience and action, which is due to the fact that both parties are so equally divided.
We are afraid to vote according to our consciences because that may bring down a particular Government. That is fatal to Parliament. Parliament can only exist as long as hon. Members are free to say what they feel, and if the time comes when they dare not say what they feel and they are too much dragooned in order to maintain a party in office, Parliamentary institutions will lose their support in this country, and we shall have something else. That is why I beg hon. Members to believe that there is still hope in this assembly for those who can speak when they get to an age such as mine where it does not matter so much as it does in the case of someone who is just starting his career. I am going out; I am free as soon as I care to be.
If road transport is de-nationalised, I think that the railways should be de-nationalised. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. But the Government are not proposing to do that.
I do not know what the reason is. There may be a good many. The railway industry should be free of restrictions which have hampered it for so long.
The great hope of this White Paper lies in the tiny reference to regional boards. I am all in favour of them. I think that there has been over-centralisation. We must keep the Transport Commission and the benefits of standardisation and the elimination of unnecessary types, improved operating, and certainly national agreements as to conditions and rates of pay. That is vital. To do that the Transport Commission must be retained, but I do not believe that any Executive need remain.
I believe that there could be an operating body under the Transport Commission, the members of which would serve on the regional boards, and that on the regional boards there should be representatives of the leaders of the trade unions. They have to play their part in this matter. It is no use standing out; they have to be in this new set-up. I believe that the trade unions can make a valuable contribution. Thus, we shall have the Transport Commission and the regional boards, and if we are to have that, why tinker with the machine now? Why not wait until the regional boards have been set up, and they can be told "Here is the White Paper, the policy on which we shall operate. Is this the right way to do it, or not?" Surely we can wait a month or two before plunging this industry into chaos.
Many of us are proud of the transport industry. We ought never to talk about anything but the transport industry, and we should stop talking about road and rail. It is one great industry. So far as the canals are concerned, the railways were always accused by the Socialists in the old days of wishing to wreck them. The best solution for the canals is to turn them into roads. They would provide very good ones. Since the 1921 Act there has, I believe, been a great opportunity for the road services and the traders to work in with the ports. There is the Hotels Executive and the Ports Executive. They are not required if there are regional boards. Let these boards function and do not tie them all to London.
The only thing that the White Paper says on that subject is that Scotland is to have a board of its own. We found that from a practical point of view Scotland could not operate as a separate organisation. It never paid and had to be tied up to the English main line. I would say to hon. Members from Wales that it is not the slightest use trying to have a Welsh organisation because the feelings of the Northern and Southern Welsh are quite different. Therefore, we had to tie Northern Wales to the L.M.S. and Southern Wales to the Great Western.
In handling the transport industry of this country we are dealing with a service of great tradition, operated by men who are superior to those in any other such service in any part of the world. There are difficulties which are always inherent in a pioneer industry—old stations, old systems and a very coarsely modernised economy. What does not change is the tradition of the men, their pride in serving the public; in the old days they were proud to be called public servants.
That is the spirit, and it is only by keeping that spirit that this country will have the transport it deserves. We can all make our contribution to facing the economic crisis by realising that this is no time to play about with subjects which may plunge us into greater difficulties.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) in this debate. He and I have been associated with the transport industry for a long number of years. The hon. Member represented the directorate side of the railways; I represent the administrative side of the road transport industry. I think that the hon. Member has made perfectly clear the difficult problems with which the Government will confront the industry if they carry out the proposals contained in the White Paper.
It is rather unfortunate that there should follow so closely two speeches, one from the Government side and one from the Opposition side of the House, which were in complete opposition to the policy in the White Paper. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Abingdon. I wish to see this great transport industry of ours kept out of the political arena altogether. I want to see it allowed to proceed along a line of development which will be in the interests of the nation. I sympathise very much with the new Minister of Transport, who is confronted with this very difficult task. I gather from Press reports that his appointment was due very largely to the fact that he understood civil aviation. I suggest he will require all the flights of imagination if he is convince this House and the nation of the wisdom of the Government's proposals.
I doubt very much whether any Government pronouncement of policy has ever been received with so much adverse Press comment as this White Paper on transport. The "Daily Herald" describes it as "the big sell out"; the "News Chronicle" as "express to nowhere"; the "Manchester Guardian" as "a mistaken policy." And perhaps the most wounding and cutting comment of all came from the "Economist" which said in the editorial leader:
The White Paper might not unfairly be described as a set of contrivances to make the resale to the private bidders of lorries now owned by the Transport Commission look respectable. Neither the Government as a whole, nor Lord Leathers as the particular ' overlord ' for transport, can take any pride in this attempt at collective thinking on transport.
Then "Modern Transport" goes further in its criticism of the Government's mis-statement of the true facts relating to the provision of adequate services by the Road Executive to trade and industry. I think it well that hon. Members should have their attention drawn to what the editorial in "Modern Transport" had to say on this point, because this is a trade paper, a paper which is not interested in the political aspect of the problem, but is interested in the proper running of transport and the proper publication of facts relating to its operation. The editor says, and I am quoting from his leader:
Having thoughtlessly committed themselves to the disposal of the Road Haulage Executive when they were in opposition, Ministers apparently have no alternative but to implement their pledge. Thus we are to have"—
and then he quotes from the White Paper
new and constructive legislation' with 'a positive approach' to the transport problem; as if there could be anything less positive and more negative than the sacrifice of coordination with financial pooling for a vague scheme to re-establish a measure of competition between road and rail in long-distance journeys with a return to the unsatisfactory position prevailing in 1939.
The editor says further:
Amongst the White Paper's sweeping and unproven assertions is one to the effect that ' the Road Haulage Executive … cannot give trade and industry the speedy, individual and specialised services afforded by free
hauliers before nationalisation, and could not stand up to competition from them.' We ourselves have had ample opportunity of examining and, as our readers will remember, describing operating aspects of British Road Services, and we found nothing to justify such an indictment.
I suggest that this is a very important repudiation of the policy of the Government and one coming from such nonpolitical sources is entitled to an answer from the Government. If the Government have evidence to refute these charges, the country is entitled to hear it so that it can examine in the fresh air of the public Press and platform the real issues at stake in the Government's proposals. If they have no such evidence, or if they seek to withhold it from the public, they are open to the most serious charge of political jobbery.
The White Paper is a most extraordinary example of the lack of understanding by the Government of the vital problems confronting transport today. One could not agree with the suggestions made in the Liberal Party Amendment on the Order Paper to set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of transport, for the very reason that the Transport Commission had not been given sufficient time to develop the undertaking and to bring about the necessary co-ordination; and also because the period of uncertainty arising from the appointment of a Royal Commission would cause serious difficulties in the transport world.
But the Liberal Amendment does draw out an important point relating to public policy. It is that the Government have embarked on an attack on the principles of nationalisation without expert advice. They have not carried out their statutory obligation of prior consultation with the Transport Commission. Nor have they thought fit to consult the trade unions concerned. They have committed themselves to a reckless, dangerous and narrow partisan policy which pays no regard to the national interest or to the welfare of the workers engaged in the industry.
I wish to address a question to the Prime Minister. I hope that when he speaks he will at least give me the courtesy of a reply. Is it true that the Transport and General Workers' Union addressed a letter both to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Trans- port setting out their views on the terms of the White Paper to which they received only a formal acknowledgment? That is the first question. The next question is—
The point I want to make is that this is a responsible trade union. It is the largest in the country, and over a long period of years its policy has been to serve the interests of the nation and, as best it can, the interests of its members. It is a union which has a fund of knowledge and experience in the transport world affecting the matters upon which the structure of the White Paper is built. One would have thought that the Prime Minister would have felt that the representations of the union in their letter at least warranted some consideration and attention other than a formal acknowledgment. The union are anxious that the Government should not only be aware of their views but should understand perfectly clearly the danger of the course which they propose to follow.
Meetings have been held in Birmingham and throughout the country which have been organised by the transport industry. These mass meetings of our transport members have not been held at any political instigation. They have not been held because the workers have regarded this question of de-nationalisation of road transport as a political issue. These mass meetings were held by men who were seriously concerned about the danger to their standard of life of a return to private enterprise and to the conditions of the old days which they thought had gone for ever.
These men have asked whether they can strike against this danger to their welfare, wages and conditions of employment. That may well be a serious danger despite the intentions of the Prime Minister. The union has set itself against any industrial action in connection with political legislation in the Houses of Parliament, but we are entitled, in our fight to safeguard our members, to better consideration from the Government than that which we have received up to now.
We are most anxious that the Government should not proceed with this scheme until they have consulted the various trade unions concerned to ascertain their views and to discuss, if necessary, the details of the position, so that they can clearly understand the dangers which arise to trade and commerce and to the welfare of our people. The trade union movement has made a tremendous contribution towards the prosperity of the nation. Let there be no misunderstanding about it. We are prepared to play our part in winning back the prosperity that we once enjoyed.
But we want to be perfectly sure that, while we are asked to make sacrifices by the right hon. Gentleman and others, we are not the only section of the community which is asked. If the right hon. Gentleman and his Government, while calling upon the trade unions to exercise wage restraint and all the rest, are willing to hand over to vested interests the nationalised section of the road transport industry, if they are willing to hand over to the banks millions of pounds by the increase in the Bank rate and to increase the profits and benefits of other sections of industry, then the working men and women in our trade unions will not be anxious to co-operate.
They will say that the Government are not playing their part. We are prepared, as a trade union movement, to play our part in the salvation of this country, but we want to be assured that the Prime Minister and the Government are playing their part and giving a square deal to working men and women.
I am sure that the House welcomed the tone and spirit of the speech which the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) has just delivered. I should like to assure him that nothing is nearer to our wishes than to consult the Trades Union Congress, and particularly the important union that he mentioned, upon matters of this kind which have so close a contact with immediate affairs. The course we are taking will give plenty of opportunity for such consultation.
If the answer was only a formal one in December last, it was because these matters were in a state of flux and consideration. and because the Government must at least make up their own mind and see clearly what their main line of advance must be before they go hawking their ideas around in all quarters. But the course that we are taking now will give ample opportunity.
That is why we have brought out this White Paper—good or bad. It is brought out now in plenty of time to enable opinions to be collected and expressed from all quarters, friendly and unfriendly. The White Paper is, I think, a guide rather than a rule. It expresses our aims and policies, but it is capable of being influenced and affected by public opinion and by the consultations we shall have.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), also complained that the Transport Commission have not been consulted fully beforehand. Considering how much they were affected by our declared intention to de-nationalise road haulage—an intention declared so plainly that, if we had not acted upon it, we should have been taunted from that side of the House with going back on our promises—it was not, in the circumstances, really quite possible to consult with these appointees of the late Government about all the details of altering the legislation on which they depended and which they were administering.
We have looked at it from a different angle, but, now that the facts are known and our policy has been brought forward in the White Paper, we shall, of course, welcome consultations with Lord Hurcomb and his colleagues, and I trust that they will continue to give us their assistance in arriving at the best solution possible.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, is a curious mixture of geniality and venom. The geniality, I may say after a great many years of experience, is natural to himself. The venom has to be adopted in order to keep on side with the forces below the Gangway. Some parts of his speech were unexpectedly moderate, but, obviously, he had thought it necessary to prepare the way, as I often see hon. Gentlemen doing, in putting himself on good terms below the Gangway by saying a number of things in which I know he does not believe and of which I am sure he is ashamed.
The right hon. Gentleman accused me of being cowardly in asking my right hon. Friend to open the debate. Does he believe that I am really afraid of opening a debate? Why would I be afraid? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the spectacle of a number of middle-aged gentlemen who are my political opponents being in a state of uproar and fury is really quite exhilarating to me. I have not had 50 years' actual service in this House without having got used to the rough and tumble of debate.
It was not out of cowardice that I ran away from this position, but because I have great faith in the ability of my right hon. Friend, although he has had such a very short time in this office, to present this extensive case in a masterly form to the House. I, who can speak when I want to or need to, almost, would, I think, have been taking an unfair advantage if I had, as it were, usurped the best place in the debate, and left the Minister, who will fight this matter from the start to the finish, without the opportunity of putting his own stamp on the story and of gaining, as he has done, the confidence and respect of those who now see him in this new office.
There is another thing which the right hon. Gentleman said which I thought was rather unworthy of him, and that was when he said that we did not know and we did not care what happened to the 80,000 workers employed. I should have thought that, apart from all questions of philanthropy and good comradeship, decent humanity and even self-interest would have actuated a Government in that matter, but we shall, in fact, em- body in our action the exact clauses—Sections 98, 101 and 102—of the Socialist Government's Act of 1947, which deal with compensation and pensions. Nobody ever dreamed that any contrary course would be adopted.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to use a really insulting taunt. He said that we were under some sort of obligation to the Road Haulage Association. We are under no such obligation of any kind; not at all. They have never even been consulted in the matter. It is quite true that they had an agitation in the country, and that some of us agree with what they said, but our association with them is entirely non-existent in any form at all, and in no way compares with the close association in so many ways of the party opposite with the Co-operators, without whose influential counsel I doubt very much whether C licences would ever have existed at all.
I have been drawn into this question on which I speak tonight because it transcends ordinary Departmental measures, and is a part of the main policy of Her Majesty's Government. It illustrates more clearly than almost any other example the fallacy of doctrinaire nationalisation, as opposed to the fertility of regulated private enterprise. Therefore, it really represents, as was complained of by the Liberals, the doctrinaire division, the great division in principle, between the two principal parties in the State and the two sides of the House.
I should like to say that no step has been taken by me without the approval of the Cabinet. The decision to intervene on the suddenly announced increased transport charges—the increase of fares—was the result of a five-hour Cabinet meeting on this subject on the Thursday before Easter, when the full legal rights of the Government of the day were examined, set forth and explained to us by the Law Officers and the Lord Chancellor. The Cabinet left the drafting of the communiqué and the timing of its issue and publication to me. That was the extent of my personal action, though I had and have very strong opinions upon what should be done.
Leaving these current issues, let me say that we felt it our duty, in accordance with the public pledges that we have given, to reverse the legislation of the previous Government about road haulage.
This was not in a spirit of mere contrariness. We are convinced that a very considerable and needless injury was done to the national economy by the compulsory acquisition by the State of a section, only numerically a small section, of road transport, and we are sure that the arrangements which we propose to make will be a real help to public convenience and, consequently, to general recovery in these critical years.
This White Paper—I quite agree that I am not its author, and I dare say, in some ways, it has the defects which attach to a document which has been many times considered and in which many minds and many hands have played their part in arriving at the complete agreement—and the Bill which is being founded upon it have been the result of prolonged Cabinet study, beginning as soon as the Government was formed in November last. The Ministry of Transport, under the ex-Minister, whose loss through ill-health we greatly regret, worked in the closest harmony with Lord Leathers whose long proved practical business efficiency was of so much service to us in the war.
I have seen it suggested that this White Paper was a hurriedly produced document. In fact, it has been before the Cabinet for several months, and this is, I think—I am sure—the fifth edition. [Interruption.] We are stating our opinion, good faith and sincerity against all hon. and right hon. Members have to say on the other side. When we became aware that the de-nationalisation of road transport was even more urgent in the public interest than that of steel, we decided to lay this White Paper before Parliament, in order to carry the House with us and to do just what I have said, to profit by the movement of opinion on this intricate subject without in any way weakening our main purpose.
The draftsmen have long been engaged upon the Bill, and we propose that it should be brought before the House in July. Meanwhile, we shall carefully reflect on well-grounded criticism, and, of course, consult the Transport Commission, as I have already replied to the hon. Member for Bradford, East.
It has been suggested that there was no need to sell back to private enterprise the nationalised road haulage vehicles. It is no doubt true that the simple raising of the mileage of the A and B licences from 25 to even as little as 40 miles would expose the Road Haulage Executive to destructive competition, plunging them into a growing deficit, affecting, in its turn, the British Transport Commission as a whole. The 25-mile limit is the radius. Therefore, it is really 50 miles, and to lift that to 60 or even to 40 would be to make an enormous difference, and it is suite clear that if we had taken that course 'it would have produced a much less smooth and speedy method than the one we propose in the White Paper and which we intend to embody in the Bill.
The Amendment dwells, first, upon the "properly integrated" transport system which it alleges we are seeking to destroy. This is no true description of the present system of operating the road and rail services under the Transport Commission. The Railway Executive and the Road Haulage Executive are operated as separate entities, and the road undertaking can quite easily be disposed of separately. A transport system, whether "properly integrated" or not, exists to serve the community, and must be judged not by its quality of integration, but by the quality of its service to the public.
The 1947 Act is not a "properly integrated" system. It has not led to a more speedy or efficient service or to one more ready to adapt itself to the varied and often urgent practical requirements of trade and industry. That is the position in which we found ourselves. But we need not exaggerate the magnitude of the actual physical step we are taking. Some figures, with which I agree, were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. Altogether, there are nearly a million vehicles on the roads which are involved. Of these numbers only about a twentieth part have been nationalised—41,000, and then there are the 14,000 which rest with the railway companies, but I am speaking of the 41,000—and all the rest are run by private enterprise under A. B and C licences.
We propose to transfer back that twentieth part from the State to the private user, or, if you like, to the general public. That is our intention. Our hope and our belief is that the liberation of this small though important part of our road transport will enable goods and services to be interchanged over the whole area of road transport in an easier, more flexible and more convenient manner than at present, and in our struggle to earn our livelihood and thus win survival in the modern world this is a factor which cannot be set aside.
It would be a wrong thing to complicate, hamper and often frustrate the whole organisation and flow of road transport just for the sake of allowing one section of it—albeit important long-distance—to remain under State management at the cost of imposing a vast mass of restrictions on all the rest. This is the case which we submit to the House and which will be argued out by all the processes of Parliamentary discussion when the Bill is in due course presented to the House.
We believe, rightly or wrongly but sincerely, that a thoroughly bad arrangement is going forward now. Take, for instance, the C licences. Forty-one thousand road vehicles, apart from the 14,000 of the railways, are nationalised and are run by the State for general purposes. Under C licences alone over 800,000 are run by private people carrying their own goods without limit of distance, but allowed to carry only their own goods, so that the late Government, as I said, did not dare to abolish this right or privilege.
It is, of course, often a wasteful process to run an enormous number of vehicles which are restricted in this way. Many of them only carry half their full load on many journeys and many more, nay a vast majority, come back empty. Think of the petrol, and tyres, the wear and tear of the vehicles; the labour lost in driving them; the resultant overcrowding of the roads. This is a point which is not novel. It has often been made in debates in the House, and most frequently by Members of the party opposite. Socialist Members who have spoken in that sense must face fairly and squarely the reason for what is being done and what has happened.
Industrialists with their mind properly on costs—profit if you will—would not have taken the expensive course of operating under C licences if they could have got from nationalised long-distance transport the facilities which industry and production need and are well entitled to expect. When the late Government, for reasons which I have described, exempted the C licences and nationalised 41,000 important long distance vehicles and restricted to a 25-mile radius the 110,000 free haulage vehicles operating under A and B licences, they condemned the overwhelming proportion of our road transport to what everyone can see is a thoroughly wasteful misuse of our hard-pressed resources.
It is indeed remarkable that the consequence of the Government nationalising so small a section of the road vehicles has been to double the C licences. Before the war there were fewer than 400,000, mostly short-distance delivery vans; now there are over 800,000. In the last four years nearly half the owners of the road transport have sought to escape becoming dependent upon the Government, and have chosen instead to put up with these obviously unsound economic conditions under which C licence holders work, like going often with half loads and many returning quite empty.
Is this a party question? I do not think it is, because many misgivings were felt on that side of the House and we feel them here. Can we really afford to hamper ourselves in this extraordinary manner? Think of it. Four hundred thousand, or 350,000, more road vehicles working only for private ownership—not private enterprise, because enterprise is crippled—rather than undergo the inconveniences of an inferior service in an economic sense offered by the State.
What is the use of talking about a properly integrated system of transport, when the great change which has so far resulted has been this enormous increase of between 350,000 and 400,000 C licence road vehicles? No one ought to be content with a thing like that going on. There is an argument—I think it is a bad argument; nevertheless, it is a classic Socialist argument—for forcing every load to be carried by the method chosen by the State.
There is an argument—which I am venturing to present this evening—for setting free this small section under State control and allowing it to be merged in a general harmonious system of regulated private enterprise. Surely, today, although we differ on the remedy, we might agree we are now having the worst of both worlds. I will make allowance for the fact that the scheme of the party opposite has not reached its full conclusion.
But let us just look at these 41,000 vehicles under the Road Haulage Executive. I am coming to the railway aspect presently. I must apologise for detaining the House and I will curtail my remarks as much as possible, but I feel we owe it to Parliament and the nation to show that what we do is out of no mere mood of partisanship or desire to undo what was done but because we firmly believe that we can produce by the process of liberation a beneficial accretion to our national wealth.
The 41,000 vehicles are about, as I have said, a twentieth of the road transport in question today. They are an eighth part only of those which have sprung into being under C licences while the nationalised 41,000 vehicles were being taken over. It was pretty hard on people who had for many years run small but efficient businesses—the man driving the van and the wife keeping the accounts —that often happens—when their vehicles were acquired under the 1947 Act.
True, they were paid a large sum—£30 million—for the goodwill they had built up. [An HON. MEMBER: "A fair price."] I suppose at a fair price, the party opposite were responsible. Still, many of them bitterly resented the treatment they received, and a proportion of the smaller people took their share of the £30 million compensation and have now left the country for the Dominions and the Commonwealth.
The taking of these vehicles over was a harsh and unreasonable thing to do, even though the Socialist Government, in accordance with their hitherto correct principles of compensation, paid out this large sum of money. I say "hitherto" because I shall have a word to say about that later. It pleased nobody except the politicians pursuing the theme of nationalisation.
Here was the variegated field of road transport, all of which had grown up naturally, responding from day to day to the laws of supply and demand, and corrected by the penalties constantly operative which befall private enterprise when it is unsuccessful. Here it was before us. This represented the end of a long process of the survival of the fittest.
What have we now? We have the 800,000 private vehicles under specialised ownership which forbids them to touch any goods but their own. We have 50,000 under the A licences and 60,000 under the B licences, and against all this vast field of privately owned transport 41,000 nationalised vehicles to be managed by the Road Haulage Executive.
Let us just see how they have managed their sphere. I make all allowances for their difficulties. The fact remains that the 41,000 nationalised road vehicles, apart altogether from those who drive them and keep them, and apart also from over 6,000 operating and maintenance clerical staff, require a headquarters and have set up a headquarters and administration staff of no fewer than 12,000 clerical and administration personnel. The exact figure I have been furnished with is 12,348.
I am told that the Road Haulage Executive staff of 12,000 which has sprung into being costs more than £6 million a year. I am told that is probably many times as much money as would be needed if these 41,000 vehicles were allowed once again to be merged in the general system of road transport. The whole of this vast apparatus has been brought into being to manage a twentieth of the road haulage vehicles of the country. This lies upon us as a dead weight and is an unnecessary burden upon our intimate communications which are a vital factor in our economic life. The question we have to ask is why should this have been done, and, if it has been done, why should it go on?
Now we come to the railways. 1 have never been shocked by the idea of nationalising the railways. In fact, I believe I proposed it on my own before almost all the Members of the House had even thought about going to Parliament. I am by no means sure I have been right. It is no part of my case that I am always right.
Anyhow, we have to face the facts. The railways are and will remain nationalised, and the Tory Party will do their utmost to make them a great, living, lasting success in the vital, though limited, sphere that is open to them. If we wanted to do the most idiotic thing that we could conceive, it would be for our countrymen to divide themselves into two gangs, one lot backing road transport and the other backing rail, and trying to fight a political battle on that intimate and delicate, and in some respects tormented, front.
There is no development of road transport which can replace the services rendered by the railways. There are immense classes of traffic which only the railways can carry. There are important classes of non-remunerative traffic which must be carried. There are military needs —and I do not mean only definite military needs; this country cannot possibly get on in time of war by road transport alone, however great its development may be. There are military needs, as the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South said in a thoughtful passage of his speech the other day, which only the railways can fulfil.
We accept the nationalisation of the railways. We do not mean to see them let down or maltreated in the vital and indispensible service they have given us. I do not look upon the railways—I rather echo the eloquent words of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport—and the harbour and port authorities connected with them, as a purely commercial business. I have a feeling that associates them with the defensive services of our island. Well do we remember how, in all their various ways, the railwaymen and their comrades stood by us in all the trials through which we made our way in the war.
There are, no doubt, great opportunities for improving the administration of the railways. Decentralisation, we hope, will yield fruits. Anyhow, it will bring about a revival of the old stimulus of competition—or disinterested competition, if you like. This, while not hampering the making of Bradshaw or the A.B.C., gave everyone employed a feeling of esprit de corps.
Then there is the levy on road transport of £4 million a year—not much to put upon the broad backs of liberated and free road transport; once set free, they will take it in their stride—but at least, the levy meets the actual purchase price of the goodwill and it will increase in the future only as new traffic is taken over from the railways. In this it offers them a solid security without hampering private enterprise road transport at all. Thus we believe that road and rail, Socialist and Tory, and even Liberals—although I fear they regard it as very essential to their position to find fault with whatever is done—might all live happily together in this field to the advantage of everyone.
I ventured to put these points before the House because I am anxious that hon. Members should appreciate with how much care, zeal and earnestness we on this side of the House have worked to try to remedy the evil plight into which we have got, in a manner which will be conducive to the public advantage. But there is one grave issue to which I must refer before I conclude, and that is the threat to re-nationalise road haulage without paying fair compensation. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, did not like the word "threat." He called it a public duty and an act of decency. I admit that he somewhat toned down the statements which we have recently heard from less responsible members of his party and, I think, from their party organ. Nevertheless, the words he has used today deserve very careful attention and must be most carefully studied.
Hitherto, British Socialist policy has been to nationalise what industries they thought fit and to pay reasonable compensation to the owners and shareholders. This is a matter of principle in which they differ from the Communist Party. That and the maintenance of political liberty are the two main points of difference. I should not like to see them weaken those barriers at all. To establish the principle of confiscation, even though it was preceded by a threat—I beg pardon, by an act of decency—would be a departure from what has hitherto been a fundamental practice, and it would undoubtedly affect the whole aspect of our laws.
If persons acting in good faith under the full authority of the Crown and Parliament are to be dispossessed without compensation, or with inadequate or unfair compensation, a new era will open. Of course, one Parliament may change or reverse the legislation of another. That is what we are going to do when we reach the month of July. It is quite a different thing to violate the broad equities of legal or commercial transactions. It would not only affect our credit in many directions, but the constitutional authority of Parliament itself would be impugned.
The right hon. Gentleman heard my speech. I said nothing to justify these observations. I said that we would pay compensation which, in all the circumstances of the case, would be fair, but that we must be fair to the community as well as to individuals, and that while we were against confiscation of private property we were equally against, and must protect the community against, the confiscation of public property. The right hon. Gentleman's interpretation is not justified at all.
I am very glad to hear any reassurances of that kind, and I am willing to accept them for what they are worth. But we should certainly not be afraid to join issue with the party opposite on this ground. If the threat or act of public duty were taken seriously it would, of course, affect the value of the national property which we propose to sell.
That will not deter us from proceeding with our policy. It would mean, however, that the purchasers might get it very cheap because of this new element of risk, and that the State would be the loser, perhaps by a large sum. The responsibility will not rest with those who are pursuing a constitutional and Parliamentary course with the full right and authority of the House of Commons, but it will rest with those who, by an unprecedented and non-constitutional action, will be inflicting a serious injury upon the nation for the undoubted advantage of private individuals who will get national property very cheap.
The more these sales are prejudiced by this kind of talk in which the right hon. Gentleman and his party have been indulging, the more that evil will take place. It would seem, I should have thought, at any rate, only common prudence for the Opposition to wait and see what the situation and condition of the transport industry is before committing themselves what may be long in advance to steps hitherto accepted only by the Communist Party.
We believe that in less than the lifetime of this Parliament the benefits of a liberated road transport system, combined with the successful administration of the British Railways, may make it seem a very wrong and foolish thing to re-nationalise the roads in a future Parliament. Thus the threat which is now made will be proved to have been vain and idle.
It might not, however, prevent it from having cost the State many millions of pounds and enabling individual purchasers to secure national property far below its value. I am sure that this has been carefully considered by the Leaders of the Opposition. I see evidences of it today, and the right hon. Gentleman's eagerness to interrupt me to express his position is a sign of grace in the matter; but, nevertheless, much harm may already have been done. Never, however, in any circumstances would we be justified in surrendering in the teeth of such a challenge the undoubted rights of Parliament to legislate as it chooses.
To sum up, we believe in both road and rail transport. We believe that they should be helped by both parties to play their vital part in the internal economy of our hard pressed society. We do not think that the levy on road transport will hamper its development and imperative expansion. We regard the temporary retention of the 25-mile limit for certain classes of vehicles as no more than a lever and spur to the whole process of liberating road transport from its present tangle and restrictions.
We have no intention either of cramping the full, natural expansion of road transport or of disinteresting ourselves in the future of the railways. We believe that a far better service will be available for the public as a result of the policy we are determined to pursue than what they would get if matters were simply allowed to drift.
We have just listened to a most unusual intervention by the Prime Minister. I listened to his speech with the greatest care and I must say that I am quite unconvinced as to the reason why he preferred to intervene at this stage rather than to open the debate. One can only conclude that he did not wish to be followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). I can quite understand his desire to intervene in view of the fact that he has taken so active a part in the formulation of this present transport policy, but it does seem only fair to the House that there should not have been quite so many interventions from the Government Front Bench.
It is difficult to be convinced by his argument against consultation with the British Transport Commission. After all, the British Transport Commission was entrusted with the organisation of the transport system of this country and public moneys were involved—and any policy taken by the Government which in any way affects the finances of the British Transport Commission is one with which the whole country is concerned. One would have thought that they, who are responsible, and know the successes or failures of the organisation, should at least have been brought into consultation. It is also difficult to believe that the relations between the Government and the Road Haulage Association are quite as platonic as the Prime Minister suggested.
For the main part, his speech, like that of the Minister of Transport, made wild allegations against the damage to the economy which is being done through the nationalised transport system without supporting them by any evidence or argument. On the matter of integration, which the 1947 Act set out to bring about, he showed complete ignorance of what has so far been achieved by the British Transport Commission.
I very much regret that he did not hear the speech made by his hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). If he had heard that speech he would not have made some of the remarks which he did during his speech. The hon. Member for Abingdon made it quite clear that the policy which is set forth in the White Paper can mean financial ruin to the railway system of this country. He made it quite clear that the transport system would be upset and that the railways would be in a very sorry state. Yet the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister suggests that by de-centralising the railways there can be a return to competition within the railway system. It is extremely difficult to see, for instance, how the Southern Region is going to compete with the North-Eastern Region.
Yes, they are. But I would remind the hon. Gentleman that competition on those routes did not prevail before the war. There was a working agreement made between the rival companies whereby the takings were pooled, and thus that competition did not exist before the war. I would say, further, that it would be wasteful and unnecessary competition. It is far better to run the services which are required as efficiently and economically as possible than to have duplication and half-empty trains. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman realises what has happened on the railways since the 1921 Act. I am not sure that he does not still think that the London, Chatham and Dover Railway competes with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, from Victoria to the south coast.
In regard to the staff of the Road Haulage Executive, to which he referred —making great play of the fact that there had been a great increase in staff and that the executive and administrative staff was so large—he mentioned that there are 41,000 vehicles; but the total staff of the Road Haulage Executive is only 80,000. That is less than two persons per vehicle. Surely that is not an excessive staff. The staff to which he referred includes all the managers, group managers, all the clerks and the people arranging the pooling of the traffic, and all the traffic managers, as well as those in the workshops. If one can operate day and night—as do British Road Services—40,000 vehicles with a total staff of 80,000, I think they are doing it pretty effectively and efficiently with a minimum of staff.
The speech of the Minister of Transport, to which we listened earlier, showed complete ignorance of the transport system of this country and the developments which have taken place during the last few years. His whole case seemed to be based on the alleged failure of the 1947 Act, and the whole purport of his argument was that we must return to the status quo—to the pre-war position. In fact, this White Paper would send us back further than the pre-war position, because it would go back further than the 1930 and 1932 Acts.
Apart from his premise that the 1947 Act has failed, he ignores or forgets what was the pre-war position as regards the transport industry. The road and rail transport sections were at war. There were no agreed rates on the roads. There were no agreed rates between road and rail. The conditions of employment, the working and running conditions on the roads, were appalling and chaotic. If the Minister would speak to any lorry driver today and ascertain from him the conditions under which he was compelled to work before the war—working longer hours than were legally permitted and running unsafe vehicles—and ask him to compare those conditions with those under which he is now working, he would realise that we cannot and must not return to those conditions. He has also forgotten, I think, that the railways were pretty nearly bankrupt before the war and were in a poor shape—
If it is not true, why is it that the railways did not engage in far greater modernisation and electrification than they did and were unable to pay more than half per cent. on the ordinary capital
That is not true. May I ask if the hon. Member has seen the Statistical Memorandum 21, which was in the Library? It gives the average earnings on the issues of capital of the railways for a number of years before the war. We find that in no year was the average anything like half per cent. I have it here — [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] I will not make a speech now, but perhaps the hon. Member has seen the document.
I do not want to develop this, but I will quote three figures. The pre-war railway average cost over all capital, in 1932, was 2½ per cent., and in 1937 it was only 3½ per cent., and in both those years the average on the ordinary capital was only half per cent. If the hon. Member takes the immediate post-war years, he will see that in 1946 there was a deficit of £11 million on the railways and in 1947 there was a deficit of £59 million. The war-time guarantee of some £43 million was not met by some £16 million. I would remind the hon. Member of that to reinforce my argument that the railways were pretty nearly bankrupt before the war.
Three and a half per cent. over all the capital, much of which was in debentures on which 5 per cent or 4 per cent. was paid.
The Minister of Transport referred in his speech to the impossibility of equalising road and rail competition. That is perfectly true, but it is for that very reason that co-ordination of transport and not competition offers the only solution. The basic fact about the transport problem is surely that as long as there is one transport system available which must carry what traffics are offered and another system which is free to carry what it will, one will carry what is profitable and the other will be left with much that is not so profitable. So long as we have the railways as a common carrier—as the Minister pointed out they must be a common carrier—and other persons are engaged in transport who are not common carriers, we shall always have certain of the unprofitable traffic hived off and put on to the common carrier.
Consequently, if we have that unequal position we can never have fair and equal competition. Because we cannot have fair and equal competition, we can only solve the transport problem by having a unified ownership. That was the conclusion to which the Labour movement came many years ago and it was carried into effect by the Transport Act of 1947.
What is it that the Government are trying to do according to the White Paper? I find their proposals muddled. They seem to think that we need more road haulage today and do not realise that there is actually a surplus. They propose that there shall be a return of road haulage to private enterprise. At the same time they wish to restrict competition within it but to allow sufficient competition to bring about harm to the railways. As the railways are necessary in any case, the Government are to impose this levy on road haulage to try to come to the rescue of the railways.
What I do not understand is, do the Government want cheap road transport competing with the railways, or do they not? They are so muddled that they are handing out freedom to the road haulage with one hand, but restricting those already operating within the 25-mile limit with the other. They are saying, "We will set some of you free; go ahead and succeed, but if you succeed and harm your railway competitors too much, you must pay for it. Be free, but not too free." What a muddled policy.
As for the poor railways, the Government tell them they are going to be hurt, but if the pain gets really bad they will be given a dole. There is to be a means test for the railways. It is rather like strangling a man with one hand and giving him occasional whiffs of oxygen with the other. There is no doubt that the policy which is being followed is one which will put the railways in an extremely difficult financial position.
It really is an absurd policy which is being put forward. The Government are taking steps to transfer traffics from the railways which already have a surplus capacity to the already overcrowded roads at the cost of safety on the roads and at the expense of railway finance. Does anyone really suggest today that the railways are carrying traffics that should go by road? If they are, that can only be put right by intelligent planning and it was precisely that which the 1947 Act was bringing about. The 1947 Act made an entirely different approach to this transport problem. It made possible and more economic an extension of the area of collection and delivery by road and to replace certain of the rail way routes by road, such as the branch lines and cross-country routes.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South referred to some of the steps which have already been taken by the Railway Executive and the Road Haulage Executive to integrate their services. The Road Haulage Executive has set up this complete network of directional and functional routes. A very large amount of long-distance miscellaneous traffics is now sent by road in road-rail containers. The Road Haulage Executive are also carrying a certain amount of railway traffics on the cross-country routes where it is profitable to do so. At the same time, zonal areas have been created whereby the Executive are collecting and delivering over a wide area railway traffics to and from railheads in order to avoid shunting in the marshalling yards and so on.
There is no evidence whatever that there is an inadequate service provided by the Road Haulage Executive, as is suggested by the Government in the White Paper and in speeches to which we have listened. The Road Haulage Executive, as pointed out by my right hon. Friend, has only been operating four years and in effect has only been able to consolidate itself in the last 12 months in fact the acquisitions did not come to an end until December of last year.
I ask the Minister precisely what is to happen to the Road Haulage Executive? He said that it would disappear and would be wound up. What is to happen when these operable units are put up for sale? Quite clearly, speculators and people who want to go into the business to make quick profits will buy the profitable units. There will be opportunities to purchase and people will be willing to buy where they see quick profits where units are already operating profitably and appear to have good traffic at their disposal. But there are bound to be on a large number of routes a very large number of units which will not appeal to the speculator, which will not appeal to the road haulier who was in business before, or to new entrants. What is to happen to those?
Surely there will be left a rump, as it were—a rump for the R.H.E. to operate. Or is the Minister going to compel those who buy profitable routes to buy at the same time unprofitable routes—to take the rough with the smooth? That is what he should do. If he wishes to liquidate all the routes, he should compel them to take the rough with the smooth. This rump, this section, of British Road Services which is bound to be left will, of course, be left with the administrative machine and will be left with the unprofitable traffics, and it will operate at a loss, and that loss, presumably, will have to be carried by the British Transport Commission.
Then, as regards the 25-mile limit which is to be retained, it seems most unfair that those people who are coming into the business at present are going to be able to compete with those people who are already in it, and that those people who are already in it are going to have to pay an additional tax that is to be levied on all vehicles. I refer to that because it was these very small men who are operating on short distances that hon. Members opposite were fighting for and set themselves up as the champions of all the time we were fighting to get the 1947 Transport Act through.
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. These people will realise that an essential first step in their early freedom is to get the long-distance hauliers free, for it was the long-distance hauliers who were nationalised. As soon as a substantial part of the units to be sold as units are disposed of, the 25-mile limit can go altogether, and the sooner the better, after the disposal of the assets, as far as I am concerned.
Yes, but in the meantime, I would point out, those operating on the long distances will be able to eat into the traffic of those in the 25-mile radius, while those within the 25-mile radius will not be able to eat into the traffics of those on long distance or those who are coming in as new entrants at a very favourable advantage. I wonder what the small road haulier who has been in business during this period and who is now going to suffer from additional competition, who is going to have to pay an extra tax, who has had the petrol tax put up, thinks of this fulfilment of a pledge of the Government, who pledged they would abolish the 25-mile limit when they got back to power.
Further, the railways are bound to lose at every turn. They are going to lose from the increased competition which will result, and they are going to lose their supplementary road services, to which I have already referred.
He said nothing of the sort. He referred to other railway road interests. The feeder and the delivery services will be retained. Naturally, a large number of lorries that are serving the railways for delivery and feeder purposes will be retained as an integral part of the railway organisation. Any impression to the contrary is completely wrong.
It is a pity there is not a little co-ordination between the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport but will the Minister of Transport answer this question? At the present time part of the collecting and delivery of zonal services is done by the British Road Services of the R.H.E. Is that going to be sold or turned back to the Railway Executive, or what? There is a lot here to be sorted out, and I doubt very much whether the Government have appreciated it all.
Then, what I want to know above all in this regard is, what is the real justification for selling off the road haulage which the railways acquired before the war and which the State purchased when it purchased the railway stock under the 1947 Act? Pickford's and Carter Paterson and the other haulage undertakings of the railways came to the British Transport Commission when the railway shares were purchased from the railway stockholders. If all the is sold off, that which the State purchased with the railways is to be taken away from the railways, and public moneys will be dissipated. It is sheer robbery to take away from the State that which it has purchased in this way and sell it back to private enterprise, as is being done in this case.
There is no justification for it, because it will put the railways in a far worse position. The railways went into the road haulage business before the war in order to protect themselves. That protection is now to be taken away, and they will be in a worse case, following the action which is to be taken if the White Paper is carried out as expounded by the Minister this afternoon, than if they had remained as they were before the war.
In the speeches we have heard so far from the Minister and the Prime Minister, there has been no argument in support of the policy they put forward. The White Paper was apparently, despite all the Prime Minister said of its rehash and rehash, hastily and unpreparedly produced, inasmuch as the policy has not been given sufficient serious consideration from the national point of view.
It might have been discussed time and time again by the Cabinet, but it appears to have been discussed from the point of view of party politics and not from the point of view of the national interest. It seems to have been presented with prejudice and prematurely, without evidence or supporting arguments, or with prior consultation with responsible authorities, to destroy the first constructive move to separate transport problems which had been made since the First World War.
To tamper with the industry as now contemplated would destroy the integrated system that is being built up, and would be contrary to the interests of the transport user, to the welfare of those employed in the industry and harmful to the industry of the country, and to production also. If the Government so act, it will be seen that they are acting from motives of party politics and against the public interest. In opposition the party opposite tried to wreck the Transport Act when we put it through this House. They are now trying to wreck nationalisation and to reward their friends if this policy is pursued. This introduction of politics into nationalisation is, in my view, the sordid action of a squalid Government.
The Prime Minister, in one of his asides, seemed to suggest that the Liberal Party had tried to have something different merely to be different. We probably have very good reason for wishing to be different from either of the other two main parties in the House, but I can assure him that on this occasion our difference is certainly not picked in any artificial manner. The Liberal Party has made its position on road haulage quite clear for a long time.
I regret that the Prime Minister is not in the Chamber at the moment, although I can hardly expect him to be. I listened to his speech on the wireless some years ago when he said, "Set the people free," and I did expect that, whatever pressure might be put upon him from other sources, when it came to this Measure he would try to set road haulage free.
I do not understand the position of the Conservative Party on this matter. At one moment the Prime Minister, referring to the previous state of affairs before the 1947 Act, described what went on in road haulage as the "process of the survival of the fittest." How can it be maintained that that was the state of affairs when there was a regulated licensing system, when it was by no means easy to get, in particular, A and B licences?
The right hon. Gentleman now describes what he proposes to set up as the "harmonious scheme of regulated private enterprise." I am afraid that we in the Liberal Party just do not understand it. It seems to be a kind of partial parochial monopoly, and I say most seriously to the Government that such a state of affairs lends itself to attack by many hon. Members on this side of the House.
If the Government seriously suggest freeing, as they say, road transport but leaving it under a regulated licensing system, they are merely providing a target for the Socialist Party when they come into power some time in the future. Whether in the near or far future is a matter of opinion upon which I do not propose to comment.
The attitude of the Liberal Party on this is perfectly clear. We are concerned that there should be a settled policy for transport. Furthermore, as I have well understood myself, in all the pamphlets that I have had to read to get a little information on this subject, it is an extremely complex subject in all its spheres. We have now had a few years of nationalised road haulage system, and if there is to be a settled policy would it not be better to have a Royal Commission which, in about six months, could collect the evidence and new information available as a result of activities in the last few years and present it to the House? I feel that many hon. Members on both sides would then be a lot better able to make up their minds what was in the best interests of the country.
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously saying that he considers that there is much more evidence available, hidden away somewhere, which this Royal Commission could dig out, which is not available to Members of the House? Does he not think that in the present strain of current politics the House of Commons is much the better judge of the situation of this industry?
I feel that a lot of people who consider that integrated road transport has a lot of merits would, if they read the evidence which would be provided in a report from the Royal Commission, not then attach such great importance to the merits of integration of road transport; and as a result there would be less tendency for the Socialist Party to want integration again when they next come into power.
We must clearly differentiate between the two most desirable structures for road transport and rail transport. The railways are by nature rigid and suitable for some kind of central control and planning, whereas the essence of road transport is flexibility, the variety of the types of vehicle used is almost infinite, and the distances from "round the corner" to "Lands End to John o'Groats." When that is realised one must come to the conclusion that it is essential to have an intimate business of private enterprise on the road side, with small firms of only a few vehicles up to larger ones
While I submit that for road transport, it does not in any way spoil the argument for the control and planning of rail transport. For instance, a tremendous variety of types of goods have to be carried, from pig iron to china ware, from silk and satins to bricks, from perishable fruit and vegetables, which need to he moved to their destination very quickly, to granite, which will not perish if the journey takes weeks.
Let me give an instance of a firm in my town which, in recent weeks, sent some textile goods to a ship in Liverpool. The goods left Bolton by road haulage vehicle on the Wednesday, and had to be on the ship in Liverpool on the Monday. They did not get there by the Saturday or Sunday, and it was found that the road haulage vehicle had broken down with them on the way to Oldham. Anyone who knows the geography of Lancashire will understand what was going on.
That kind of thing is disastrous. It is not a question of how much it costs to send the goods from Bolton to Liverpool. They must catch the boat, and even if it costs twice as much paying the extra charge would not matter as long as they do not miss the boat, with the possibility of the goods not getting to the customer.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), in describing, I thought very reasonably, the different types of goods most suitably carried by rail and by road said, "What is the moral? That they should do what they can do best." Surely, in the appropriate structure—that is what we are suggesting. The railways have never been given an opportunity to compete properly or to carry in an economical manner those goods most suited to go by rail.
I have no doubt that many hon. Members have read some part of the Third Annual Report of the British Transport Commission, and I should like to draw attention to paragraph 100:
Finally, the introduction of new bases of charge for transport services is essential to the financial future of the Commission";
and there is much more of great importance which is well worth studying. I do not think that we can possibly consider bringing road transport into real competition with the railways unless we are prepared to face the facts and put the railways on a fair basis with them.
In the "Economist" of 17th May an article points out that
The Road Transport Commission Report for 1950 showed that the cost on the main line expresses comes out at about ⅓d. per passenger mile against over ½d. per passenger mile on the long distance coach services. On branch line railway services, on the other hand, the cost per passenger mile was over 2s. Id. while on the country bus services it was approximately Id.
Those figures speak for themselves, but if we are considering making such very considerable changes as to allow the railways to close down uneconomic lines and to alter their prices to attract custom where they want it and put their prices up where they do not want it, we shall have considerable changes in the price structures all over the country.
People living in certain places might suddenly find their transport costing a little more, whilst others might find it costing a little less. That is another reason we put forward for having a Commission to examine what the immediate reactions would be to putting in a policy of the type which we have described.
The "Manchester Guardian," on 9th May, said something similar:
It is not nationalisation that fetters the railways but the cumbrous form of it. … If the Railway Executive were allowed to make its own price policy, we might see some healthy undercutting of long-distance freights, and a remarkable increase in the number and variety of cheap excursions.
I should like to say that the levy seems to me completely indefensible. If it is necessary today to re-sell nationalised haulage in the way suggested, then I cannot see why, if industry pays something over £200 million in taxes a year, any loss cannot come out of that tax. We are starting a new tax, and, as we all know, many taxes are brought in as new taxes for a special purpose, and it is always said that they will be dropped in a year or two; but I suggest that once this levy has been brought in it will not be dropped but will be increased.
If we are to try to offset losses on the railways without making some of the radical changes which I have just touched upon, the losses will be considerable, and the levy will have to be raised a great deal. I do not myself see why the loss, if there is to be a loss—and I suggest that a bit of good salesmanship is required by the Government in this case—should not be borne by the Government. After all, if a business sells something else and does not get the right price for it, that business takes the loss, and I cannot see any real reason why the Government, if it has made a bad bargain and is now getting something which it is selling and cannot get the right price for it, should not take the loss.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House further on this matter, except to say that I feel that the Government must make their position quite clear. If they believe in the freedom of road haulage, then let us have real freedom.
I wish to support the Motion and the White Paper although, on first reading it, there were two points on which I had some misgivings. I had some misgivings as to the delay in the total abolition of the 25-mile limit and as to the levy on road transport, both of which I regarded as economically unnecessary. After carefully considering the proposals in the White Paper I came to the conclusion that both proposals were wise and in the interests of the nation as a whole.
If there is one point on which hon. Members on both sides of the House can agree in regard to transport it is that it is highly desirable to get the transport industry out of the cockpit of party politics. Several hon. Members on both sides have already said that and to do so it is necessary to devise a system of transport which is not only economically sound—that is only the beginning—but one which satisfies the reasonable criticism of reasonable men; and that is not the same thing as saying a system which satisfies all the criticism of hon. Members opposite.
I said that it would not necessarily mean satisfying hon. Members opposite. I was talking in the widest sense of what would satisfy the ordinary man in the street. That would be a reasonable criticism of whether we were pursuing a sound policy.
It is a truism to say that transport is the lifeblood of a civilised country, but I do not think that it is always appreciated that that particular truth applies to us in this country to a greater extent than it does in many others. Here we are, 50 million people in a small island feeding only 30 million people from our own soil, and having to buy most of our food with exports manufactured from imported raw materials so that anything we export has a greater content of transport charges in its export price than would be the case if we were exporting raw materials. Our exports are manufactured goods which have to travel many times in our own country in the process of manufacture, so a cheap and efficient transport system for us is not merely desirable but an absolute necessity.
If we consider what are the basic problems of transport at present, and what is generally agreed among the public at large, one of the first points we come upon is that there is not much doubt that the Transport Act of 1947 has failed to provide an efficient, adequate, economic and properly integrated system of public transport. If any hon. Member doubts that I would recommend to him that he should persuade the Gallup poll organisation to take a poll of the people who use transport most; a poll of the season ticket holders, especially in the dormitory towns outside the big cities, or of the traders who have monthly credit accounts on the railways. There would not be much doubt as to the answer. They are not satisfied with the present position.
During the Election the hon. Gentleman made a speech in my division. I suggest to him that he is very prejudiced in this matter because during that speech he said, or so he was reported, that he deliberately resigned from service with the railway industry because it was nationalised, and he claimed to be the only Member on those benches who took that action; therefore I suggest his opinions in this direction are prejudiced.
I do not think that it was during the Election; I think it was some weeks before. I did say it and I have said it on many occasions. I did resign for political reasons because I was already a Conservative candidate and I did not think it appropriate that a Conservative candidate should be in the employ of a nationalised industry when he was objecting to nationalisation.
There is not much doubt that the people who use the railways most are not satisfied with the present position under the 1947 Act, nor is there much doubt that the majority of traders would agree with paragraph 7 of the White Paper, that
Road Haulage had in the past been restricted largely in order to avoid excessive competition between toad and rail. This process has now gone so far as to deprive trade and industry of the full advantages of modern road transport and has driven traders to provide their own road transport to an extent which would not otherwise have occurred.
That is a reference, of course, to C licences; and there really is not much doubt about that either.
The third point upon which there is not much doubt, with all respect to some of the speeches which have been made, is that if one were to ask the people who really run the railways—the operating staff or executive officers at the regional or divisional level—they would nearly all say that it would be an advantage to have a greater degree of decentralisation of responsibility to regional level. They would say that, even though they are members of the Socialist Party, provided one does not ask them at a party meeting. That is their opinion and it is commonly expressed. One also hears a good deal of criticism about the top-heavy organisation in some of these Executives—not necessarily in the Road Haulage Executive, but in some of the others.
Is the hon. Member aware that all the workers in the industry—lorry drivers and their mates, for example—are satisfied with the progress that is being made in the relationship between men and employer?
I should not think that that was true. Even if it was, the men who are doing the operating say that they are dissatisfied with the set-up. After all, the lorry driver does not come in contact with the Executives or with the Commission.
If one accepted those three points, the obvious thing to do is to make a revision of the 1947 Act, to give a greater degree of freedom to the road haulier, and to decentralise the railways. But if we were to carry out such a policy, and that policy only, we should at once run into very serious political criticisms, without having any answer to give to the reasonable man—the average man in the street—as to why we were doing this and what precautions we were taking to meet his fears in actions which we were contemplating.
One of the difficulties of hon. Members opposite is that their propaganda has been too successful. They have handled it very successfully for some time, and they have persuaded themselves of the truth of their own propaganda. They have put out a number of complete fallacies in connection with transport, of which they have succeeded in persuading not only themselves but many people outside the ranks of their own party. The first of those fallacies was not one of their own creation, but was a legacy which they inherited from the past. That is, the idea that we have got too much transport in this country. That is a leftover from the period between the two wars, which hon. Members opposite usually describe as the "bad old days of Tory misrule" and all the rest.
The "Square Deal" campaign did, I regret, gradually work over in the direction of that argument, although it did not start with it. [Interruption.] I am not arguing whether that campaign was justified at that time. I merely say that whether or not it was true that there was too much transport between the wars, it is certainly not true now. It cannot be true now, because we have spent hardly any money on maintaining, let alone improving, our railway services since 1938, and we have spent very little money on the roads.
The latest figures which I have been able to find are for 1949 and appear to show that out of the then motor taxation of £99 million, £72 million was spent on the roads. Motor taxation has since then very considerably increased, and, presumably, expenditure on the roads has increased, but certainly not to any very great extent. At the same time, for economic reasons, we have not been allocating any large number of commercial vehicles or private cars either to trade and industry or to the private individual. It seems obvious, therefore, that with a growing population and increased productivity, it cannot be said that we have too much transport.
They are about 800,000, I believe, but that is quite irrelevant to the point. I am saying that, taking the nation as a whole, neither road services nor railway services have increased very much in number since before the war, but that we have increased our productivity and we have increased our population.
The second assumption which seems to be commonly held is the association somehow or other between road transport and big business. This always strikes me as extraordinary, because the proportion of road hauliers who represent small businesses is very large indeed. The suggestion that they are some big financial interest which is financing a certain political party. is quite ridiculous.
The third exaggerated view which is put over by hon. Members opposite is an unduly despondent view as to the future of railways, and an unduly pessimistic view as to the amount of traffic which road transport could take away from the railways by "creaming off" the traffic.
According to the world road statistics for 1951, the traffic density on British roads is 17.6 vehicles to the mile, as against only 16 per mile in the United States, but with this difference: whereas the Americans have many more modern roads than we have, and also the money and the space to build more, we have neither, and many of our roads are very ancient and have almost reached saturation point in road traffic. The fear of many railwaymen that somehow suddenly, overnight, there will be a great flood of traffic on to the roads, is groundless, because the roads cannot hold the traffic.
It is a very wise provision to allow liberalisation. What I am saying is that railwaymen need not get unduly alarmed, because there is a limit to the amount of traffic that can go on to the roads. There will be a balance over of traffic for the railways, and plenty of opportunity for them to take their proper share.
I am speaking broadly from the viewpoint of the average man in the street. who reads his morning newspaper and, perhaps, has no particular interest in the road transport industry. He has an idea that the railways are a derelict industry, that they are on the way out and some day will be replaced by roads. But that is a much exaggerated view, which could not possibly materialise in present circumstances.
It does not say that at all.
Another opinion which is greatly exaggerated is the theory as to railway losses. I challenged an hon. Member who talked about the interest earned by the railways before the war and who gave a figure, I think, of one half of 1 per cent. I am not sure where he got it from. He must have been thinking of the ordinary dividend of a certain railway before the war. The House of Commons Library Statistical Memorandum, No. 21, gives a list of figures for 1913 and for each year from 1919 to 1938 and devotes a column to the rate of interest and dividends on capital, measured in terms of the total issued capital of the railway companies.
This is an average and we cannot compare one particular railway with British Railways.
I see that the lowest interest paid was in 1932 and was 2.57 per cent. So the railways were continuously paying before the war, and I am not sure that they have not been paying continuously since, because if we look at the figures for 1950 —the latest figures are not yet published —the net traffic receipts were £26,330,000. It is difficult to relate these traffic receipts to any particular capital sum because the alleged loss of the Transport Commission is related to the whole of British Transport stock and the alleged deficit of £9 million was related to the capital of the Commission of £1,259 million, and not with the capital of the railways only.
As the capital compensation paid to railway stockholders at the time of nationalisation was £900 million this meant that on traffic receipts of £26 million the profit is something in the nature of 3 per cent. I notice that in another place Lord Lucas mentioned the very high figure of railway capital at the present time as £1,000 million. If that is correct £26 million is still a profit of 2½ per cent. The idea that the railways are losing heavily is much exaggerated. With proper management and the opportunity of improvement I do not see why they should not continue to earn a reasonable amount which should enable them to make the improvement to satisfy the public, and, at the same time, provide a reasonable future for the men employed on the railways.
It seems to me that hon. Members opposite are wrong on all these points, and what the White Paper does is to meet all the arguments that they have advanced against the transport system of this country. I do not think there is too much traffic on the roads, but if there is then this White Paper says that—
I do not think that the railways are making a loss, but it is provided in the White Paper that if there is a loss due to road haulage it will be made good out of the levy on the road hauliers and will not fall on the public. The sale of these units of operation will be covered by the levy. There are many other points on which one would like to have information, and I hope that will be forthcoming before the Bill is presented. I think this White Paper forms a good basis for discussion and is one which should be seriously considered and recommended by the House.
I am glad of the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), because like myself he was at one time a railwayman. The hon. Member may have been a very good railway solicitor and perhaps he knew something of railway law, but, listening to his speech tonight, it is easy to see that he knows very little about railway economics and still less about railway operations. I am quite certain that had he, in 1939, when the Great Western Railway were employing him, made the speech he made tonight, he would not have needed to resign, for he would have been sacked.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that the 1947 Act has not, in fact, achieved its purpose. I know of no one who would claim that complete integration of road and rail and waterway transport in this country would be achieved in three and a half years. Indeed, the present Home Secretary, speaking from the Opposition side of the House in 1947, admitted that it took the Railways Act of 1921 10 years to achieve the purpose that it set out to achieve. That was an infinitesimal job by comparison with that of integrating the road and rail transport of this country.
The hon. Member for Truro suggests that what is really required in the transport industry is that it should not become the cockpit of party politics. The party opposite since 1945 have made transport the cockpit of politics, and, indeed, they propose to continue to do so. If one looks at paragraph 14, one finds that the Transport Tribunal procedure is to have superimposed over it the overriding powers of the Minister to alter decisions reached by it. If that is not bringing even the charges that are to be applied into the arena of party politics, I should like to know what is.
Since 1921, with the passing of the Railways Act, the Railway Rates Tribunal has been an independent judicial body charged with the responsibility of determining railway rates and charges. That was superseded in the 1947 Act by a Transport Tribunal which was given slightly greater powers because road interests were involved, but it was still an independent, judicial body whose purpose it was to determine the reasonable charges to be made for the cartage of goods by road and rail, free from any pressure from any side. Because of their defeat at the county council elections, the Tories have brought that aspect of transport operations into the cockpit of party politics. Now we have the suggestion from the hon. Member for Truro that it ought to be taken out of the cockpit of party politics.
This debate has been remarkable for three things: first, the complete lack of knowledge by the Minister of Transport of the contents of the White Paper; secondly, the Prime Minister entering into the middle of the debate largely, I suspect, because he wanted to follow and not precede my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison); and thirdly, the remarkable speech we heard from the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), who completely destroyed this White Paper and tore it to shreds.
The Prime Minister, replying to a question from this side of the House, suggested that it was not true that the Government did not care what happened to the worker in the industry, but it is significant that he later admitted that, despite the fact that the Transport and General Workers' Union had made representations to the Government on 12th December, 1951, nothing more than a mere acknowledgment has been received by that organisation. It is not without significance, too, that there is not one word in the White Paper about what is to happen to the 75,000-odd people who are now employed in the road haulage section of the British Transport Commission. We are justified, therefore, in assuming that there were second thoughts arising from the point made by my hon. Friend, that they prompted the Prime Minister to make that statement this afternoon.
The Prime Minister went on to say that there would be proper compensation for the people who were displaced from the road haulage industry. I should like to address one or two questions to the Parliamentary Secretary on that aspect of the matter. Who is to pay the compensation for the people who are not re-employed? Is it the British Transport Commission, or is it the private road hauliers who acquire the operable units? Or would it be the Government? If it is the Government, from what source will they secure the compensation? Already it has been admitted by the Parliamentary Secretary, when addressing a very favourite organisation of his the other day, when he sought to write down the value of this section of the industry, that it was not without reason to assume that £30 million of goodwill had already been lost, if these proposals were carried through.
Anybody who knows the industry and the way in which it has been organised will agree that it will be almost impossible to convert it into operable units without leaving some sections of the industry in the hands of the B.T.C., the best bits having been taken by private industry. How will there be competition? The road haulage units acquired by the B.T.C. have been established at a thousand depots all over the country, each serving a separate area. By no stretch of the imagination can we believe that a lorry stationed at Cardiff can compete with a lorry stationed at Derby. If there is to be the competition which is so dear to the heart of hon. Gentleman opposite, the depots must be divided up into a number of operable units, which would still leave the British Transport Commission with a substantial part of the undertaking.
I want to turn to the speech of the Minister of Transport. He sought to explain that there had not been any consultation with anybody because, apparently, of some constitutional difficulty. He had not consulted the trade unions, or the Road Haulage Executive, or the British Transport Commission, because, so he said, there were great constitutional difficulties in the way. Until the policy was known and debated in this House, there was no purpose, he said, in consulting any of those bodies. The Prime Minister, an hour or two later, standing at that Box, sought to offer some other explanation.
I wish Members of Her Majesty's Government would decide to sing the same tune when they are singing about this matter in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works was speaking at Middlesbrough on Friday night last and he is reported in Saturday morning's "Northern Echo" to have said:
He strongly criticised suggestions that the Government should consult the British Transport Commission before de-nationalising road transport. 'We are not likely to get any good advice from them at all, because they were appointed by our enemies '.
So the secret is out. Well-respected civil servants who have given a lifetime
of service, men who were employed until 1949 in road haulage, are now so completely untrustworthy that the right hon. Gentleman, and his noble Friend who coordinates transport, have not the courage to ask them for advice. Have they consulted any transport experts or anybody, except the road haulage organisation? Why not? Because they realised, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon pointed out, that if they had consulted transport experts they would have been advised that the plan was impossible of operation.
I was about to give way because I did not want to appear discourteous, but I will have regard to what you have suggested, Sir.
So now we know that the Government failed to consult, not because there were great constitutional issues at stake but because they did not trust anybody. Some of the people to whom I have referred were employed by the road haulage organisation prior to its being taken over by the British Transport Commission.
Let me turn to one or two other matters. The Minister of Transport suggested that a monopoly had been created in this industry, and he went on further to suggest that the road haulage industry consisted before the war of a number of very small men who managed their own businesses and, to recall what the Prime Minister said, with their wives keeping the books. The plain, simple fact is that before the war 23.3 per cent. of the A and B licensed vehicles were owned by fewer than 140 firms, and that the 19 largest firms engaged in road haulage before the war had a total of £52½ million invested in the industry. That does not suggest that their wives were burning the candles in their back kitchens at night making up the books.
I should like to have some more information about what is to happen to the sections of the industry that were in the hands of the railway companies before the war. If Carter Paterson's, Pickford's, Hayes Wharf Cartage and other firms, like Currie's of Newcastle, in which the railway companies had a controlling interest before the war, are to be sold on the open market, then the British Transport Commission, if this scheme is carried through, are to be placed in a position infinitely worse than existed on the railways before the war, and the hon. Member for Truro, who I see is not now in his place, will know what the conditions were on the railways before the war.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson), who was at one time Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, took part in a debate in this House on 17th November, 1937, when a Motion was debated calling for the proper co-ordination and nationalisation of the transport industry. At 10 o'clock that night the hon. Member put the point of view of the Government which, if my memory serves me right, was a Conservative Government. He said:
There is one phrase"—
of the Motion—
with which I can heartily agree, … and that is that co-ordination of transport is essential. That was largely the reason for the Road Traffic Acts, 1930 and 1934, … and for the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933. It was also the reason for the legislation on what is called the Baillie report, which was promised in the Gracious Speech, and for the Report on Service and Rates, which has been got out by the Transport Advisory Council. We can get co-ordination without State ownership, and that is the difference between hon. Members opposite and Members on this side." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1937; Vol. 329, c. 521–2.]
If this present policy is carried out they are going back a long way further than even the hon. Member said they were prepared to go in 1937.
I wonder what the noble Lord who is Minister for Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power thinks about the speech he delivered in another place in setting out the point of view of the Government in 1943, when he went so far as to say that he did not think that even the square deal proposals for the railway companies and the road haulage concerns at that time could meet the situation. He went on to explain that he thought something much more fundamental was necessary but he was not in a position at that time to declare any policy. He has apparently been thinking of this problem from 1943 to 1952, and has now arrived at the stage where the only thing he has thought of is the unco-ordinating of transport in this country and the handing back of private road haulage vehicles to private concerns.
I think that it must inevitably follow, in spite of the hon. Member for Truro, that if this policy is carried through and there is no provision in this White Paper for even the common carrier obligation for the road haulage concerns, they will be free to cream off all the traffic and choose where they will up and down the country, and the common carrier obligations are still shackled to the British Transport Commission who cannot refuse any traffic.
If any hon. Member cares to examine the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee stage of the Transport Bill, he will find that I quoted the case of a brewery company which, even to the present day, send out their full barrels of beer in their own lorries and send the empty barrels to the local railway station to be sent back by rail to the brewery. The railways of this country will never pay if that kind of thing is to be continued.
I warn the Government on behalf of the National Union of Railwaymen that if, as a result of this policy, the railway revenues are insufficient to meet expenditure, they can expect the greatest possible pressure from the union that their members should not go back to the conditions they had to endure in the years before the war. I was a member of the railway staff in 1939 when platelayers were taking home 39s. a week and railway porters 38s. 4d. We shall not allow them to go back to those conditions.
So far as the transport workers are concerned, either on the roads or the railways, I warn the Government that if this kind of policy is pursued, this kind of pandering to the road haulage organisation in return for what the road haulage organisations did for the Tory Party, we are not standing by to watch the railwaymen of this country be driven back into the degrading conditions they suffered before the war.
I think that the hon. Member for Abingdon completely tore this White Paper into shreds this afternoon, and I suggest that the Government might have second thoughts about it before they plunge this industry into a far worse condition than it was even in 1939.
I am bound to say that I have a number of misgivings about this White Paper. I do not feel that it would be honest or indeed of any service to the Minister, whom we, on this side of the House at any rate, desire to help in his task, if I did not give expression to them. I take the view that a great many hon. Gentlemen take on both sides of the House that the transport problem is not one that should be approached in any doctrinaire spirit.
In that, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). The only difference between us is that I have always thought that, and he only thought it for the first time today. The difficulty with transport when it is brought on to the Floor of the House is that the problem always gets distorted. It is just as foolish for hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to say that everything was splendid in the days of free competition and that everything was hopeless in times of nationalisation as it is for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that everything was chaotic and confused when there was competition and that everything is excellent under nationalisation.
It has been very often the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. One has to approach this problem with the background that one knows about. It is true that before the war, in the days of competition, there were many sad defects in the road haulage system. It is perfectly true, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, that many workers in road haulage—not all of them, because many of the big companies were excellent in their attitude to their men—were made to work over the scheduled hours, and many men were made to drive vehicles that ought not to have been on the road. No honest person can blink those facts. We must also agree that in those days there was a great deal of wasteful competition. Most people in the transport business took the view when the end of the war came that something had to be done. That was a general view.
Then the party opposite came into power and proceeded to nationalise transport. I opposed that, not because I did not think that co-ordination was best in transport, but because I thought that it was a doctrinaire approach then. I opposed it because I did not think that the Government of those days had made a proper inquiry into all the conditions. I thought that it was wrong to do it in those days. But I must say that I still think that it is just as wrong to approach it again and make the mistakes made then, as the Government are doing now. It is because I see many of the mistakes that were made in 1947 in danger of being repeated now that I feel that I should say something about it to my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench.
Nor indeed do we do any service to transport here if we belittle the Railway Executive or the Road Haulage Executive. The Road Haulage Executive iscomposed largely of men who went into it from private industry. They did not like nationalisation, but they loved transport and they loved their work. They were determined to make it work, and, in view of the task which was set them by the Government in 1947, they have done remarkably well. It is one of their big achievements that they have brought about an improvement so that men no longer work over the scheduled hours and that vehicles are now sent out on the roads in the proper condition.
I have had some experience of this matter, and I say that we cannot, merely by passing an Act of Parliament, enforce scheduled hours, because all the men are not free from blame in this respect. It sometimes suits their purpose well to drive over the scheduled time, and it also serves their employers' purpose. It was almost impossible to discover before nationalisation, and the reason for the change is because of the great work by the Road Executive, and I think they deserve great credit for doing that.
That brings me to the first main point, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who I know is most anxious to see this part of the scheme work, will be able to reassure us that this part of the new scheme will be made to work, though I do not think it will be possible to make it work on the old basis.
The second point in the White Paper about which I feel some misgivings is that I do not think nearly enough consideration has been given to the position of the railways. The railways have always bedevilled the problem of transport. If there were no railways, it would be perfectly simple to deal with the matter, but, unfortunately, there are; perhaps I should say fortunately for many of us, but unfortunately for those who have to deal with the problem.
The Government have really given away the whole case for competition by the levy. I can quite understand hon. Friends of mine saying, "We want free competition." That is an understandable point of view, and one which I should normally support. I do not know if it is always feasible in transport, but it is a view which I should normally support. On the other hand, hon. Gentlemen opposite say that there is no real case for competition in the transport industry at all. There may be something to be said for that. What I cannot understand is that anyone should say, "We will have competition in one section of the industry, and none in the other"; as it were, that neither of the two compartments should be able to compete against each other.
It is just as if the Government were starting a horse race and said, "There is one poor old horse with only three legs that does not run very well, so we will make the other one carry weight in order to make things more level." That may be a good way of running a handicap, but it is not a good way of treating a great problem like this.
The difficulty that I feel about the levy is that it shows that we cannot really have—and I do not think anybody argues that we can have—competition between the two sides of the industry. Nor do I think it is very desirable that we should. To make matters worse, according to the White Paper, as many hon. Members have pointed out, the Government are to take away from the railways the intermediate road services which they used to have. So many hon. Members have spoken about that subject that I will only say a word or two from the experience which we have had on that point in Northern Ireland.
Over there, the road transport industry was nationalised, while the railway—the Great Northern Railway—was not nationalised, for the simple reason that it runs in two different countries and nobody could see how it could be done. When road haulage was nationalised, all the road services were taken from the railway and nationalised as well. That killed that railway; there is no possible doubt about that. That railway was completely killed, and now the two Governments are having to decide what is the best thing they can do about it. Many people take the view—and I think quite rightly—that if the railway had been left the haulage services, the bus services and so forth, it could, at any rate, have competed on something like equal terms with road haulage. Therefore, I hope that this matter will not be pursued.
Finally, I desire to say that transport should never be looked upon as a means solely of making a profit for somebody. Transport supplies a service to parts of the country to which it would be quite uneconomic to supply a service in the normal way. It has that duty as well. The difficulty is that the railways carry the main burden of that duty of common carrier. I agree with the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) who said that he did not understand why some common carrier obligation should not be placed upon the road haulage units. I have never thought it completely fair that the railways alone should bear this common carrier obligation.
Those are the four matters I desire to mention. I have been critical about this White Paper, but only because I believe that if we proceed to enact legislation on the lines set out in it we shall do irreparable harm to this great industry in which so many people have tried to serve. Not only that; I believe we shall do irreparable harm to a great party of which those of us on this side of the House are proud to be members.
Owing to the weaknesses of the flesh it is so long since I spoke in this House that I almost feel like asking for that indulgence which it always extends to a Member making a maiden speech. I wish, first of all, to congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Gage), not only on the contents of his speech, but on the great courage which it is necessary to have to make a speech like that from the benches behind the Government.
I have had some experience of speaking against my party, particularly on the question of transport, and I was greatly intrigued by and particularly interested in that long part of the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon which he devoted to the question of C licences. I tried for many years to convert hon. Members of my own party, including my right hon. Friend the ex-Minister of Transport to this point of view on that question, but I little thought that in the process I should convert the Prime Minister to it. But what a belated conversion. Having pressed for and encouraged the growth of this enormous octopus, the party oppocite now agree that it is something which ought never to have been allowed.
I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) —
The hon. Member is always full of interruptions. He is like a soda water syphon with the lever permanently pressed down. The gas which comes out is perfectly tasteless and perfectly innocuous.
I do not give way in the interests of other hon. Members who wish to speak.
I think we were right to ask, early in this debate, from whence these proposals were supposed to come. Who was the author of this White Paper? We have had many transport debates since 1947. The present President of the Board of Trade and the present Home Secretary have spoken on every occasion on transport matters. They had said so much about transport that it was much too dangerous to give either of them the appointment of Minister of Transport when the Prime Minister came to make up his Government. But the strange thing is that in all those debates they never brought forward the proposals contained in this White Paper.
We learned today that these proposals came from the Cabinet and that the Cabinet had met, I believe, five times to discuss them. The noble Lord who co-ordinates transport, fuel and power is a member of the Cabinet but I do not quite see how his hand could have made an imprint on this White Paper because in 1944 he wrote:
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 do not see how, having written that in 1944, he could sit at a Cabinet meeting and subscribe to such a White Paper as this, except that it was probably because, like the noble Lord who was dealing with it the other day, he did not understand it any more than the Minister understood it today.
I should like to clear up the question of the railway collection and delivery vehicles. The Minister said one thing and the Prime Minister said another. The Minister said that the Road Haulage Executive would go. Does he not know that the collection and delivery vehicles of the railways are under the control of the Road Haulage Executive at the present time? If the Road Haulage Executive, the controlling body, go, what happens to the vehicles which are under their control?
The hon. Member asks a series of questions. This matter will be dealt with again by the Parliamentary Secretary, but I will say at this point that there was no difference whatever between what the Prime Minister said and what I said. The feeder and delivery services will stay with the railways. I was dealing in my speech, and so was the Prime Minister, with the former railway interest in road haulage, which was filched from the railways by the Socialist Party.
The weakness of the Minister's explanation, of course, is that one cannot leave something with the railways which is not with the railways at the present time to be left. Apparently he does not know that. The Prime Minister went specifically so far as to quote an actual figure of 14,000 vehicles which are involved, and he said that they would be sold—
As there is to be another speech from the Government Front Bench, if the Government have any answers to these questions they can give them to us then. Where will the collection and delivery vehicles go, and who will control them? If they are to go, under what process of transfer will they go?
It is difficult to know who acknowledges the parentage of the White Paper, because it flouts the opinion of the Transport Advisory Council and everybody and anybody who was given any consideration to or has any iota of knowledge of this subject. As far back as 1928 the Royal Commission on Transport was recommending the co-ordination of transport, and every single inquiry since has recommended co-ordination and integration.
I assert that the only criterion by which we can measure and ought to measure this industry is that there must be done to it what will best serve the interests of the nation. I do not believe that by any stretch of imagination one can say that the proposals before the House today will satisfy that criterion.
I would ask whether the Minister of Transport or the Prime Minister or anyone who has given consideration to this matter really believe that what the Government are proposing to do with this industry will meet that point. In 1944 the present co-ordinating Minister, after some considerable experience, came out quite openly on many occasions in favour of a co-ordinated transport system. He has been supported by Lord Reith, Lord Brabazon and by every technical journal. I see that even "Modern Transport" in a recent issue stated:
However much one may try and 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 to the modern State.
That was not the "Railway Review" or the "Daily Worker" or the "Daily Herald." That was "Modern Transport," the technical journal which caters for this industry. They believe it. In fact, everybody believes it, except the Government.
I spent years of my life in this industry before coming into this House, and my father before me and my grandfather worked in this industry. We have a long history in that service. We have a history of some of the worst features of conditions of employment in the industry. My parents were trying to keep me at a grammar school when my father was earning 23s. a week as a responsible main line signalman on the old North-Western Railway. So I know something of the hard side of this industry, and I am determined, if there is anything I can do, to ensure that railwaymen do not go back to those conditions or suffer any worsening of the conditions which at present they enjoy.
I have seen this industry in peace, and I have seen it functioning in time of war. I had 6½ years' experience—it was a great privilege—as a movement control officer during the war. I have one great complaint, and that is that the co-ordinating Ministers in another place have been christened overlords. It seems to me to be almost sacrilege to call them overlords because that was the code name given to the greatest military operation that the world has ever seen.
Operation "Overlord," the invasion of the Continent, was a success simply because there was behind it, as the Prime Minister said today, a co-ordinated transport service. Equipment was ready in the Thames and round the South Coast not just on D-day but right up to D plus 10, before a ship moved, and this was made possible because there was in the hands of the central authority the right to control the means whereby the traffic came forward.
I concede that. I had a fairly close relationship with his Department, but that makes it strange that he should be party to a White Paper which destroys the thing in which he believed then. Apparently in time of war, in time of danger, the over-riding interest which must prevail is the public interest, and in time of peace the over-riding motive which must prevail is the settlement of agreements with one's political friends and the paying of the price for their support which one enjoyed at the General Election. I am sorry that we call them overlords, because I associate overlords with something finer, better and grander than what we are being asked to do today.
May I urge, on pure strategic grounds, that the Government will have second thoughts on this matter? On pure strategic grounds I believe this is a major tragedy. The Government are seeking to put the responsibility for carrying goods upon a road fleet which is dependent upon imported fuel which has to be brought across the seas in time of war. That will place this country in very great jeopardy.
If we take an analysis of the vehicles on the road at the present time and compare it with the position immediately prior to nationalisation, what do we find? We find that approximately 532,000 A, B and C licensed vehicles were on the roads just prior to nationalisation and that that figure has grown until today—as the Prime Minister has said—it is just under a million. It has grown from 532,000 to a million in five years.
We have always been charged that we were going to put so many men out of business under nationalisation. Have we? There were, at the time of nationalisation, 248,000 licence holders in this country. Today, there are 428,000 men—nearly double the number—engaged in this industry on the road haulage side. The Prime Minister has said all that needed to be said about the position of C licences, and I have imposed upon myself a vow of silence in that connection.
The point I want to make in showing up these figures is that, having seen the road transport fleet nearly doubled in five years, the Government says that it is not enough, and that there must be more and more vehicles upon the roads. If they do not say that, I do not know what is meant
by paragraph 9 of the White Paper. Paragraph 9 says:
In order to allow road haulage to play its appropriate and expanding part in the transport system, provision will be made for greater latitude in the granting of new licences under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933.
I thought that the word "expanding" meant "getting bigger." I am told it does in my own connection.
I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary ought to be competent to answer this point. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman leaves it to him, because the Minister has not been long associated with the Department or with this industry and I would much prefer to have a considered answer from the Box by the Parliamentary Secretary, if necessary.
The Government are pleading—while this industry is already over-saturated with transport and while there is great wastage of economic effort—that we should have more and more vehicles on the road. We have a traffic density which is the highest in the world. We have a road deaths and accidents rate which is appalling. The roads are congested with traffic. Let the Minister motor up A5 and see what is the position if he gets behind one of these A licence holders or, more particularly, one of the C licence fleets on the road. He will find how slow his progress can be.
We have congested roads, demanding heavy capital expenditure on road widening, which is taking in still more good grazing land at a time when we ought to be growing more food to feed ourselves, and in a time of emergency we shall be 100 per cent. dependent on imported fuel. If that is not the policy of a madhouse I have never seen one.
We are told that the Government propose to liberalise licensing. Again I ask, for what purpose? I want to tell the Government that, soon, the licensing medium will not be the traffic commission; it will be the bankruptcy courts, because the Government are inviting men to take part in an industry which is already oversaturated, and the goods are not there to be carried. If the right hon. Gentleman wants proof, let him consider the fact that during the war we carried the whole impedimenta of our effort on the present railways, the present coastwise shipping, the present inland waterways and 300,000 fewer vehicles than are on the road today.
Superimposed on our economy there are something like 10,000 million miles of empty haulage every year, costing something like £500 million. If the Chancellor is anxious to get money, let him look at this problem and take off the road some of the transport which is running empty and wasting petrol in the process.
Then we come to the proposals for the railways. I thought I could understand English, but I do not understand what the proposals in the White Paper are in relation to the railways. The Minister talked about decentralisation and so did the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), but none of them has told us what they mean. What are they going to decentralise? Is it functional responsibility which is to be decentralised?
A noble Lord was asked in another place, and said that perhaps the manager of one region might have some different ideas about shunting wagons than the manager of another region. He would shunt his wagons differently from the manager of another region and that would be decentralisation. When asked whether decentralisation meant that the carriage and wagon department was to be decentralised, he said, that that just showed how wise the Government were not to put what they meant in the White Paper.
I do not think the Government know what they mean. If they do know, let me invite the Parliamentary Secretary to say so at that Box tonight. His failure will be proof that this White Paper is a concoction of nonsense, that it is not understood and has no foundation in fact at all
. What of the levy? Why is it that the Conservative Party has always been against the railways? They were against the railways when they were first built.
The Minister had better read his railway history if he does not agree with that. He had better read of some of the onerous conditions imposed on the railway companies and of the compensation this House made them pay—out of all reason—for construction of railway lines, and how they were forbidden to take them by direct routes. I do not want to spend my time in giving him a lecture, but he has no right to stand at the Box and appear smug and complacent today if he does not know the facts of life.
Why force the railways now into the position of being in receipt of charity from their road competitors? The railways can fight and win their place if the Minister will free them from the onerous conditions which have been imposed on them. They can be self-supporting and self-sufficient if given equality of opportunity with the road hauliers, but they have never had that and do not look as if they will ever get it from this Government.
The levy will do two things. It will amortise the losses which the Government have already assumed will arise on the sale of the road transport undertakings and will make up in some strange and mysterious way for the traffic loss from rail to road. How in the name of goodness is the Transport Tribunal, the Minister, the Government, or anyone to be able to decide what is the traffic loss from rail to road?
I will give an illustration. Supposing Messrs. Smiths of Birmingham are making wheelbarrows and sending them by rail to London. Suddenly, the Ministry of Supply gets in touch with them and gives them a contract for the making of parts for Sten guns. They transfer their production line to the manufacture of Sten guns, or whatever it may be, and send these to London by road. Is that a traffic loss from rail to road? It is not the same traffic; it was wheelbarrows by rail, but is now Sten guns by road. We could multiply that kind of case.
How can one determine what is traffic loss from rail to road? I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us. We shall be intrigued to know what formula is to be used to find out what is the traffic loss from rail to road. I spent a lot of time trying to combat traffic going from rail to road and it was always difficult to prove what traffic had been lost.
Last, but not least, is the question of staff, which has already been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones). It is a disgrace that that had to wait until we debated the White Paper for the Government to think anything at all about the position of the staff. Where is the compensation to the road staffs coming from? Exactly what arrangements are to be made for the loss of promotional opportunity in the railway industry if traffic is lost from rail to road? If traffic is lost from rail to road fewer men will be needed to handle less traffic, and if fewer men are needed there is a loss of promotional opportunity. Is there to be any compensation? If so, exactly how will it be applied?
Let me say how I think the transport problem should be approached. I was never one who believed that nationalisation as formulated was perfection, and I was never backward in saying so in every transport debate. I believed that there were fundamental weaknesses in the setup. I was delighted to hear the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) say that he thought there was no need for Executives. I did not believe there was any need for Executives under the nationalised undertaking. I think they were a great weakness, because what happened in setting up the Rail, Road and Inland Waterways Executives was that in the compartmentalisation of the activities of the Transport Commission the Railways Executive became rail conscious, the Road Executive became road conscious, and so on throughout the structure.
We ought to stop thinking of rail transport, road transport and inland water-days transport. We ought to think of transport as a coherent unit. When we arrive at that position and there are goods to be moved from A to B, there are only four things to be considered: the nature of the goods and the quantity to be moved; the physical position at the dispatching and receiving end and on the intermediate route their degree of urgency; and the resources available for their movement.
Given the answers to those four questions, all that is wanted to get the most economic unit is an independent authority in control of the movement. That was how we moved our impedimenta in the war and were able to mobilise everything needed for the invasion of the Continent. It is nonsense to think that a million road vehicles can be scattered about running as free enterprise units up and down the country, carrying what they like, where they like, and then hope that in some strange way we shall get the economic use of our transport resources.
What I have suggested does not mean over-centralisation at the top. During the war we de-centralised from the Service level to command level, to military district level, down to large depot level. There was no question of centralisation at the top. With the selection of the form of transport—although I know it means compulsory direction of traffic—one can get integration of transport. Either that, or we cannot hope to have integration. It worked in the war, when we wasted the minimum of transport and did the job with 300,000 fewer vehicles than are now employed.
The Secretary of State for the Coordination of Transport, Fuel and Power knows this and he has either failed in his public duty of telling the Prime Minister so, or else he has lacked the courage to tell the Prime Minister the things in which he believes. If the Minister wants any further support for this point of view he can get it from the Director of Movements of any Service Department, from railway chiefs, from newspapers, if he cares to read them, and from technical journals. Everybody except the Conservative Party knows that this is right.
The proposals we are asked to support today are not designed to save the transport industry. They are put forward in an attempt to save the Tory Party, and they will fail. Their purpose is not born out of the desire to further the public interest. They are panic proposals precipitated by the Election reverses suffered by the party opposite in recent local government elections. They will do nothing but harm to a great industry, and they will bring the Tory Party to disaster whenever they can pluck up the courage to go to the country for a General Election.
I think that the House will be glad that the hon. Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole) is well again and has addressed us once more on transport questions. I think that it will be more than glad that he did not address us at any great length on C licences, the elimination of which was for some considerable time his only contribution to the solution of the transport problem. At least two Members of the Opposition who have addressed the House represent railway towns. They seem to have the impression that regard for the railways is centred only on that side of the House. May I tell them that I also come from a railway town, and that I have as much affection for the railways generally as any hon. Member opposite.
I am most anxious that nothing shall be done by the Government which will impair the efficiency of the railways and prevent them from earning their livelihood in an honourable manner. I disagree—and this is my only point of disagreement—with the provision in the White Paper that the railways shall not have the right to buy back the road transport organisations in which they have an interest. I hope that the Minister of Transport will, between now and the consideration of the Bill, think about that matter. There are many reasons why the railways should be allowed to take part once more in the road organisations.
In considering whether nationalisation has succeeded or failed, I think we ought to bear in mind that this country is the most favourable one in which to operate a transport system. It is for that purpose the ideal country. If we cannot make transport pay in the United Kingdom, then we are pretty poor at the job.
When we look at the apparent policy of the railways under nationalisation, we must look at it in the light of production having increased by 40 per cent. above pre-war, and in the light of the railways today carrying hundreds of millions of passengers fewer than pre-war, in spite of the fact that three million more people are in full employment, and that for some considerable time we had petrol rationing.
I have only a limited time in which to speak, and if the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to look at the railway returns, he will see that the railways are carrying hundreds of millions of passengers a year fewer than in 1938. That is true.
This country in the past has had an unrivalled transport system, and most of the developments in transport have originated in the United Kingdom under a system of private enterprise. Now we have a change. I recall the peroration of the right hon. Gentleman who was Minister of Transport in the Labour Government—and I wonder whether he recalls it—when he said, in winding up his speech on the Second Reading of the Transport Act, 1947:
Give this Labour Government five years of power in this field of transport services, and the people of this country will see more progress than would be made in 500 years of Tory rule." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1637–8.]
I think that the right hon. Gentleman had made a rather long speech and perhaps he was exuberant about getting towards the end of it.
I support in full the policy outlined in the White Paper. I do so for reasons which I should like to put before the House. What we have heard from the Opposition tonight is that the only alternatives are what now prevails or a completely unco-ordinated system. It is nonsense to say that there never was such a thing as co-ordination of transport before the 1947 Act. The whole of transport history has been littered with Acts of various kinds. No one would say that the Road and Rail Act, 1933, was not a fairly restrictive Measure which aimed at a certain amount of co-ordination.
The railways under nationalisation have proved to be a failure, not merely—I emphasise this—because they have not had satisfactory financial results. It is not easy to measure efficiency under a monopoly, but there is one obvious failure of the railway system which hon. Members opposite will not deny, and that is that under nationalisation the railway system has lost its old spirit.
Rubbish; just rubbish. Some of us have given our lifetime to the service of the railway industry and we know that the railway worker has just as much love and energy for his job as ever he had before.
The Post Office employee was complaining about the railways and the railway service. What I am saying condemns, not the workers in the railway industry, but the system under which they now operate. The reason the railway system has lost its spirit is that the organisation is too large and remote.
I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite have very honourable intentions and that they desire to bring about social improvements for the people. I know that they put forward the idea of nationalisation because they wished to serve this cause. But do such big-scale organisations achieve the end which hon. Gentlemen opposite had in mind?
In the thoughts of those who have been talking about nationalisation during the past 10 or 15 years there has been confusion between ownership and control. When one wants to achieve a certain social purpose, it is no good saying that one can achieve it only via public ownership, for public ownership often lands one in an awful mess. It may well be that we can get more control in the public interest without public ownership.
Public ownership may land one in such a morass of difficulties that one cannot achieve the social purpose that one had in mind when one established it. I urge hon. Gentlemen opposite not to imagine that there is necessarily a complete relationship between public ownership and the social aims which they have in mind.
In the 20th century we have great problems. I am certain that the creation of large-scale organisations intensifies the shortcomings of the industrial system, for it makes control more remote and gives less satisfaction to the man in his job. Hon. Gentlemen have said that standardisation resulted from the 1947 Act, and that is true, but we could have standardised some of the railway procedure, operations and equipment without going to the extent of public ownership.
It is not true that putting industry under public ownership is necessarily the best way of conducting it. I believe that the railways in the future can pay their way. If the Government free them from many of their onerous obligations and operate the levy in a proper way, the railways can be made to pay and lead an honourable existence.
I want to say a word about the road transport system, because some hon. Members, including some of my bon. Friends, have taken the view that the road transport system as set up by the Road Haulage Executive is a satisfactory state of affairs. I am quite satisfied in my own mind that road transport organised on the basis of the Road Haulage Executive can never be satisfactory from the traders' point of view.
We do not want to be dogmatic about the form of organisation under which we should run our industries. It may be one form that is desirable for one kind of industry and another form for another. What is absolutely clear is that nationalisation is not the best method of running road transport. Road transport is essentially an individual and intimate business. It is important that the driver should know the firm with whom he is dealing, when to deliver the goods, what time the firm closes, and the personnel of the business. These small, intimate details make a tremendous difference in the efficiency and operation of road transport.
If hon. Members opposite believe that the industry is being efficiently run, how can they possibly explain the enormous increase in C licences? Surely firms would not go to the trouble of getting their own lorries and these C licences out of amusement or out of spite of the Road Haulage Executive. They have done so because they felt that the service they were getting was not adequate. I am quite satisfied that the return of the road transport industry to private enterprise is in the best interests of the country.
The hon. Member should know what is the organisation of the road transport industry. While there were some large firms in the business, there were many hundreds of small firms, and they served their customers very well indeed. I want to see those people having a chance of serving their customers again.
Much has been said this afternoon on the question of integration, and it has been apparent from what hon. Gentleman opposite have said that they conceive that no form of integration can endure where there is competition between one form of road service and another. But surely the best form of integration is where each service operates in a manner in which the consumer decides which is the most efficient and acceptable. Let the customer decide the service he wants to patronise. Let each service compete with another, and then we shall see what is the best system.
The difficulties which face this country are real and immense, and there is no room for doctrinaire policy. On our side we have given much away. We decided not to de-nationalise many of the industries, and I urge hon. Members opposite to consider whether they should not make some contribution along similar lines.
On a point of order. I would seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. There are many Members who have been sitting here the whole of the time since the debate started, hoping to catch your eye. Apparently other Members can come into the House later and succeed in catching your eye. May I ask what the procedure is? Is it necessary for persons who want to catch your eye to give their names to you, or is it that certain Members enjoy special rights? I should like to know, so that we shall know what to do in future.
I have dealt with this matter before. It is by no means necessary for hon. Members to give me notice if they desire to speak. In this instance there have been far more Members desirous of speaking than I could possibly accommodate in the debate, and I assure hon. Members who have not been called that it is a great grief to me that I cannot do so. I have called the ex-Minister of Transport, who is a Privy Councillor, who, by the custom and courtesy of the House, is generally accorded precedence.
I want it to be understood that neither my hon. Friend nor myself wish the slightest discourtesy to the ex-Minister of Transport, but we would like to be told, Sir, why a Member who has been continuously sitting in his place and continuously rising, is overlooked against the Member who goes out, comes in for a short period, and is then called.
We have had a number of debates on transport recently, and some of us feel rather aggrieved now because we had the same experience on a recent occasion, when you were in the same difficulty, Mr. Speaker, which we fully appreciate, of trying to meet the demands of Members of the House in a limited time. We feel that if an hon. Member has spoken recently account ought to be taken of that fact, and that other Members might have a greater opportunity.
Before I enter into the more controversial aspects of this question I should like to offer my personal congratulations to the Minister of Transport on what I thought was the very forceful and capable way in which he presented a very difficult case this afternoon.
I do not propose to discuss the whole range of the White Paper presented by the Government. I would refer to the response that was accorded in the Press generally, to the White Paper. Newspapers like "The Times," the "Manchester Guardian," the "Yorkshire Post," the "Birmingham Mail," the "Economist" and the "Financial Times" cannot be considered to represent opinion on this side of the House, but they condemned generally the provisions of the White Paper. We have observed the remarks today of two hon. Members on the other side of the House, and of Members of another place, and it is apparent that a considerable proportion of opinion in the Conservative Party is not convinced about the Government's policy.
I want to comment, in the short time at my disposal, on one or two aspects of the problem with which I am particularly familiar. The Prime Minister was speaking—I link this comment with the Minister's statement as well—on the issue of consultation. The Minister was good enough in opening the debate to quote an extract from my own speech when I was introducing the 1947 Act, and he placed a certain interpretation upon it.
The Prime Minister went further. In answer to an interruption he said that the White Paper is capable of being affected by consultation and public opinion. I desire to make clear the two different procedures which apparently have been followed. Explaining the White Paper in relation to consultation the Minister this afternoon announced a number of definite decisions by the Government. He stated categorically that it was the intention and the decision of the Government to dispose of the whole of the property of the British Transport Commission administered by the Road Haulage Executive comprising approximately £80 million worth of property. He said there would be a levy on goods vehicles to compensate for the loss incurred.
He also referred to that section of road transport owned by the railways before they were nationalised. I am not discussing the delivery feeder services. We all recognise that in connection with the square deal controversy the railways entered into a policy of acquiring large capital investment interests in road transport undertakings, haulage and passenger transport, and secured complete control of a number of important transport organisations in this country. As I understand the statement made by the Minister that section of railway transport property is to be sold back to private enterprise and the railways will not be permitted to purchase.
His next statement was that area schemes dealing with the ports and harbours and road passenger services would be removed from the Statute Book and that the various Executives would be abolished.
I did not quite hear what the right hon. Gentleman said he thought I said about ports and harbours, but what I did say about that Executive and also the Hotels Executive was that it might be that some parts of their functions would devolve on the regional railway areas and that would be discussed with the Transport Commission.
That modifies that point, I agree, but I do not think the Minister will dispute that he made a number of definite policy announcements on behalf of the Government.
The Prime Minister said they could be affected by consultation and public opinion. I think it important that at this stage we should clear up what significance attaches to the statement of the Prime Minister and I would put this direct question. If it becomes clear, from opinion in this House and in the country, and in transport generally—especially in the consultations which the Minister will no doubt have—that the weight of practical business opinion is against the sale of the road haulage undertaking, or if not the whole of the undertaking against the sale of that part of it which was previously railway property, is that subject to modification as a result of consultation? If the weight of opinion is against the levy on road transport vehicles, and if that is clearly demonstrated, are the Government prepared to withdraw that proposal? It is essential that we should understand whether those central issues of the Government policy are subject to reconsideration.
As I said, the White Paper represents the broad outline of the Government policy. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kindly reference to myself. Obviously, the two illustrations—the return to private enterprise of long-distance road haulage and the levy which is to provide the relationship be between road and rail—are integral parts of the policy of the Government. Those are the intentions of the Government, but within the broad framework of the White Paper there is room for a good number of alterations, if need be—
When, in 1945, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), said that it was the intention of the Socialist Government to nationalise long-distance road haulage, that was a definite intention: but that did not prevent him consulting all the interests concerned on how this could best be done without national harm and detriment. The same applies now.
I will develop later, if I have time, the question of the procedure which was followed on consultation. I want to demonstrate this point on the question of compensation. I have been associated with various parts of the Labour movement for a period of about 40 years. I speak most seriously to Members of the House of Commons on this problem of compensation. I have seen it pass through all its stages of discussion and evolution. It was a great gain to the public life of this country when the major democratic movements —namely, the trade unions and the cooperative societies which represent a large stable element in our national life—came down definitely on the point that these changes in property should be carried out in their proper constitutional form and that no citizen or group of citizens or separate industry should be treated unfairly.
The principle of compensation emerged. I say that it is one of those stabilising features on which we depend and on which we have always depended over the centuries which have gone to make up our Parliamentary system. The Conser- vative Party have made this decision to dispose of public property. I do not say that in no circumstances should public property be sold or disposed of. But here we have this position after only three or four years have elapsed since a Parliament with a great majority brought about changes under conditions when revolutionary circumstances were prevailing in this country and throughout the world.
The Labour Party, which is based on the membership of the great organisations I have mentioned however much percentages may vary, obtained political power after half a century of advocacy of certain forms of public ownership. As the "Manchester Guardian" has admitted, the Labour Party carried through its nationalisation proposals in full accord with the constitutional principles of the Government and public life in this country. Within three or four years, what are we facing today?
I am not going to be diverted from my line of argument by any interruptions of that kind. I say that, during the three or four years in which the Act has been operating, Parliament charged a body of persons to carry out one of the greatest business reorganisations ever imposed upon a body of men. We may argue that that has not been a success, or that they ought to have had sufficient time, but what the Government are doing now is to tell everybody outside and every potential purchaser—the Parliamentary Secretary has made public statements, and this White Paper frankly admits it—that they do not expect to get the price that was paid for it, and part of the price that was paid for it was a goodwill price.
Is any hon. Member opposite going to tell me that the earning capacity of the vehicles today, especially the vehicles owned by British Road Services, are not as good or even better than the vehicles that were taken over? They are better vehicles than we took over, because they have been improved and the poorer type of vehicle has been scrapped and only the best type of modern, well-equipped vehicle is now on the roads under the name of British Road Services. Yet, here we have a Government making public statements in a White Paper that they do not expect to get from the sale of this property what was paid for it three or four years ago, when the prices of vehicles and everything else have increased in the interim period.
Now I come to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) — which the Prime Minister tried to turn round—that the State would be responsible for the losses on this transaction. The Government White Paper itself admits that there will be a loss, and what is the levy of £4 million a year for? It is an integral part of this scheme, and what does that levy mean if it does not tell every potential purchaser that he can buy this property at less than its current market price?
Here we have a position in which a Government is making a bad public deal which no one of them would carry out in his own individual business. Do they expect any responsible citizens—and I know I am speaking for a more moderate body of opinion in our working-class organisations—to stand by and see this kind of procedure introduced into our public life?
As one who has always had a record of standing for proper treatment in the way of compensation for matters of this kind, I say that the Government ought to realise exactly what they are trying to develop. Who knows what the future will produce? Is there anybody who can look ahead with equanimity and see what kind of problems will have to be faced in the future? It ill becomes a Parliament which has passed through the uncertainties and difficulties of the last few years to introduce this process into our national life, and I think that my right hon. Friend was quite justified in resenting this kind of policy and in making the statements which he did make.
Another point to which I want to refer is the allegation made in another place by the Secretary of State for the Coordination of Transport, Fuel and Power and which has been repeated in these debates that the Labour Government approached this problem in a doctrinaire spirit and that the whole of the Transport Act was framed under ideological misconceptions.
I can speak with authority, and I would hope that the record I have after 25 years of service in this Chamber would give some support and strength to my statements. I deny that completely. In the whole of my administration I was not subjected to any doctrinaire pressure from any part or section of the Labour Government or movement. I received no official representation from the Cooperative movement with regard to C licences, and when we come to the question of consultations, this was the difference.
It is quite true that when 1 moved the Second Reading of the Transport Bill I made it clear that I could not discuss the provisions of the Bill with the interests concerned, but before that Bill was produced it was based on steady and continuous consultations with all sections of the transport industry and with all those who would be affected by the Bill. There were a great number of provisions in that Bill which ultimately emerged as a result of those discussions. Therefore, while giving effect to the principle of nationalisation, the Bill was based on discussion.
I had repeated discussions with the chairmen of the four railway companies, and I discussed with and listened to the views of the Road Haulage Association and the Federation of British Industries. As a matter of fact, I met almost all the trading associations representing the different industries that would be affected as users of the transport system. I discussed the matter with the trade unions and with the Trades Union Congress. Indeed, there was a great variety of matters in that Bill which was not influenced at all by doctrinaire considerations, but which emerged as a result of the practical recognition of the issues involved.
I will go through them briefly. Take, for example, coastal shipping which has a direct interest in inland transport. Over a million tons of shipping is involved in that. Coastal shipping was left out entirely from the provisions of the Bill with the exception of a coastal shipping advisory committee whose duty it was to see that the two sides did not destroy each other. Was the leaving of coastal shipping outside the provisions of the Bill a doctrinaire approach to the transport problem?
Again, let us take the case of London Transport. London Transport was created by a Conservative Government, and it was not in any way affected by the Transport Bill. It was taken as a unit and was in no way modified. The only substantial section of private property transferred to the State was the railways and the canals, and the Conservative Party do not propose to modify that part of the Act.
Where is the doctrinaire approach to this problem? Take ports and harbours and road passenger services. There we had no principle of compulsory acquisition. There we had a scheme which has not proved to be effective, but a scheme, nevertheless, which left local opinion and area opinion completely free to determine whether they came in or not. Where is the doctrinaire approach in a scheme of that kind?
I now come to the road haulage side of the matter, on which there is the greatest controversy. Only about 5 per cent. of road haulage has been introduced into the Transport Act, and that is essentially linked to the financial stability of the railway system of this country. Two-thirds of the A and B licences were left out of the Transport Act and it was only long-distance transport, which now affects one section of railway traffic and upon which its financial success depends, that was brought within the provisions of the Act. If the Conservative Party destroy a process of thought and conviction which has been developing for half a century and on which the financial stability of the railways depends, they will inflict irreparable injury not only on railway transport but on our whole transport system.
To come to the permit system, the part dealing with exempted traffic was inserted in the Transport Act as a result of an exhaustive series of discussions with trade representatives who were able to demonstrate the peculiarities of their own trade and to prove conclusively that it was not suitable to be handled by a public transport system which had to take a number of different parcels and consignments together and treat them all on an equal basis. I cannot continue further now, but I have spoken because I felt it was necessary to make it clear that the Transport Act emerged from a process of education and knowledge that has grown up over half a century.
It is my task to sum up the arguments of the Opposition in this debate and to present to the Government our reasons for believing that they have acted hastily, acted wrongly, acted in the interests of their friends and against the interests of the nation. All that, with the assistance of the House, I propose to demonstrate during the minutes I have at my disposal.
The first point on which we challenge the Government, and on which we condemn them, is their failure to consult those in the industry who know what is happening and what is going on. They say, "But it is our job to stand on our own policy and, having announced it, to consult with those who are working in the industry and ask them to help us work it out." They say that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), did exactly the same thing in 1945 and 1946; but that is not so.
What the Minister does not seem to realise—and I do not blame him for not realising it—is that the argument that used to go on in this House and in public about the future of the transport system was not whether there should be a co-ordinated system or not. That argument was settled. Everybody believed in co-ordination and integration. The argument that went on was whether that co-ordination and integration should take place under private or under public ownership.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), who is not in his place and who, I am sorry to learn, is not well, was quite logically correct when he said to the Minister this afternoon, "If you are going to de-nationalise the roads, then why do you not de-nationalise the railways?" That is the whole essence of the argument and discussion that went on in this House in the 1930's and 1940's. The decision that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South, took, in line with Labour Party policy, was not to reverse the whole trend of 20 years' thought in the matter of co-ordination, but to say,"It is my intention, on behalf of the Labour Government, to conduct this under public ownership"; and he consulted the House of Commons on that matter of principle.
But what the present Minister is doing, and what his predecessor did, is not reversing merely the issue of whether this should be under private or State ownership. He has gone a stage further. He is not merely arguing that it should revert to private ownership. The whole of the Government's case is based upon the fact that they do not believe in integration and co-ordination.
Really the Minister cannot conjure a policy on a technical matter out of the air. It is perfectly proper for this House to decide whether an industry should be run in private or public hands, but it is stupid, foolish and rash for a Government to say, "We know better than the people employed in the industry about whether there should be competition or integration, about whether there should be coordination or anarchy. That is a technical matter, not a matter of principle, and we challenge the Government and condemn them for their action, because they are reversing the whole trend of transport thought over the last 20 years.
We do not say that they should have consulted the British Transport Commission or the trade unions or anybody else about whether it ought to be in private hands or public hands. That is clearly their decision, and they are entitled to take it and to submit it to the House. We say it is stupid, to put it no higher, to reverse the whole trend of transport thought without asking the people who are engaged in the industry.
But is it really true that the party opposite did not really consult anybody? The Minister said they did not, but I do not thing he knows. The Prime Minister said they did not. It may be formally true that they did not consult anybody in the way in which consultation is laid down in the Transport Act. They did not consult the British Transport Commission properly about the matter of fares, but they had conversations with their friends about the form of this White Paper.
There was really no need to raise a point of order about that. I would gladly have given way if the hon. Member had indicated that he wished to make a point about it. I said that no formal consultations had taken place. But like many of my hon. Friends, I read the trade papers, and it is not without significance that in the trade papers week after week, before this miserable document appeared, there should be reports of lunches attended by the Minister and members of the British Chamber of Commerce; and the Chairman of the Conservative Transport Committee, the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) went to another lunch in order to explain what the purpose of the White Paper was to be.
As the hon. Member is making a series of veiled charges—[HON. MEMBERS: "Open charges."] —very well, open charges against my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Transport, and has suggested that by accepting hospitality from public bodies he must necessarily have given away policy secrets, I must make an emphatic protest against any such charge. The late Socialist Government were not very reluctant to accept hospitality from outside bodies, and we made no charge of that kind against them.
I am making no charge against the previous Minister of Transport. I am making charges against the Prime Minister and the present Minister of Transport. They said that no consultations took place. I said that formally they are right in saying that. I said that it was reported more than once in the trade papers that conversations took place on social occasions arranged by certain bodies, when these matters were discussed. That may be wrong. All I repeat is what is contained in the trade papers. They can be read by anybody who cares to buy them. I do not complain about that. I think it is sensible. My complaint is not that they consulted them, but that they did not consult the British Transport Commission and the trade unions, in addition.
I am sorry that the Prime Minister—who came in the middle of what I was saying and did not hear the beginning—should think that the British Press descends to the level of smoking-room gossip in reporting what takes place on these occasions. I have always understood that it is perfectly proper for the Press to report these things. I said they had conversations; they may not have had consultations.
I cannot repeat things for the benefit of the Prime Minister. I suggest that they talked this over, although they did not have consultations; but they did not have talks with the British Transport Commission and they certainly did not discuss the matter with the trade unions. It would have been far better had they done so.
What has emerged now, at the end of the day, is that every responsible and reputable transport authority is opposed to what they are doing. We had a most notable speech—to which I regret the Prime Minister was not here to listen—from the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon this afternoon. If the Prime Minister had a larger majority this evening, the effect of the hon. Baronet's speech would have been such that a number of his colleagues would have abstained from voting—if they had been sure that he would have got his majority in the Lobby—and his scheme would have been destroyed.
Nobody could have heard that speech and seen the effect it created on this House, with all the glum faces among hon. Members opposite, and still believed that the policy advocated by the Minister of Transport—however flashy he may be in assuring hon. Members behind him, temporarily—could have any lasting effect when it is faced with the criticism levelled at it by the hon. Baronet and by everybody concerned with transport who knows what is taking place.
The plain fact is that the Government have not been convinced by the facts in this case. They affirm that the British Road Services have failed in their duty and that they have not been able to supply the trader with the service he needs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They go on saying so even now; but this Government determined to denationalise road transport when it was a political party in opposition, before the British Road Services got going and before there was a wheel turning under the heading of British Road Services.
This White Paper is not based on their experience of British Road Services since they returned to office. They did not ask for their views. They do not know what they are doing. What they are doing is the worst trick of all—smearing the reputation of British Road Services in order to divert attention from their own dirty deeds in this field. If it is announced, before an organisation even gets into motion, that it is intended to break it up, and then the very people who are going to break it up come along after a short time and say: "Look how badly it has failed to provide traders with the service they ought to have," do not they realise how suspect they are?
Would not it have been far better to have gone to British Road Services before they smeared them in that way, and asked them what they had to say about the allegations in this White Paper? Why should they be judge as well as prosecuting counsel in their own case? —because that is the way they have behaved. It has left a pretty nasty taste in the mouths of those who know the effort which has gone into making British Road Services a success.
I am not given to reading quotations. but there is one quotation which I should like to read from "The Times" of 19th November, 1951, from a letter from Professor Gilbert Walker, who is well known as a pretty careful student of British transport matters. This was his view long before we had any idea of what the Government were going to do. He was in favour of doing something in the matter of de-nationalisation, but this
was his view of the work of British Road Services:
The speed and success with which the R.H.E. has been developed nation-wide have uncovered unexpected resources of organising ability in those whose former employment allowed inadequate scope for the exercise of this talent.
That is not a Government with preconceived ideas saying that it has failed, but an independent student of transport saying that it has been developed with "speed and success," and everyone who knows the facts knows that is true.
To bolster up their case, hon. Members opposite refer to the increase in C licences and say that if traders were satisfied they would not have turned over to C licences to the extent to which they have done. I make two or three comments on that. The first is that this is no particular phenomenon in this country. We are not unique in the development of road transport since the war. The Economic Survey of Europe in 1950 produced statistics about the growth in the number of commercial vehicles in all countries in Europe. I am indebted to the British Road Federation for this bulletin.
There is not a country in Europe in which the number of commercial vehicles on the road has not increased substantially since the end of the war—not one—and they did not have a Transport Act in 1947. [HON. MEMBERS: "C licences?"] They do not have C licences. What we are discussing is whether there has been an increase in the amount of commercial traffic. [Interruption.] If hon. Members who interrupt had been here earlier this afternoon, they would have had their first lesson in transport history from the hon. Member for Abingdon. He gave an excellent lesson and it is a pity they were not here to hear it. Now, perhaps, they will try to relate what I am saying to the facts of the situation.
What we are discussing is whether there has been an increase, as there has been in this country, in the growth of commercial vehicles because the railways are not able to carry the traffic for one reason or another. In every other country—Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Western zone of Germany—there has been a substantial increase in the number of commercial vehicles—[HON. MEMBERS: "C licences."]
We are not dealing with C licences, but with the problem of what is to be the proper relationship between road and rail. In every country of Europe, whether they have C licences or not, whether they have railway systems well developed or underdeveloped, the road traffic has developed to a very great degree and is challenging the railway systems. Let us be agreed on that, and then we can judge how far the Government's proposals are meeting that challenge.
Since the war, under the Labour Government traders in this country have had a more profitable time than under any Tory Government before the war. There has been full employment and the errand boy has practically disappeared How many small traders are today delivering goods in small 30 cwt. vehicles who before the war were employing an errand boy on a bicycle? They all have C licences which go to swell this total.
Of course, it has happened everywhere. C licences are applied to a great many vehicles. Even hand-propelled electrically driven vehicles by which milkmen deliver the milk—a familiar scene since the war—have to have C licences. I wonder how many belong to the Co-operative societies alone; the number must run into many thousands. This is one of the reasons for the increase in C licences, but it has nothing to do with the question whether the service afforded by British Road Services is adequate or not.
I certainly affirm that, although it has not been a big problem, there have been large companies so animated by political prejudice that they were never prepared to give British Road Services their business. That is well known, and if the Minister had taken the trouble to invite the opinion of British Road Services I am sure they could have told him of some large firms, whose names I have in my mind at present—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I do not intend to be drawn by that sort of interruption. I have in mind large firms who, as soon as British Road Services took over the private vehicles and went to these companies for their custom, told British Road Services, "We do not intend to deal with a nationalised service." The Minister has only to go to them and he will get the names. I know of some large companies. I do not say that it has made a substantial difference to the problem, but I do say that political prejudice has existed and has had an effect.
Now I come to one particular inaccuracy of the Prime Minister. He said, if I understood him properly—and it is on the tape—that the headquarters' staff of the Road Haulage Executive, administrative, technical and supervisory, numbers 12,000.
I am prepared to accept the correction. In fact, the headquarters' staff of the Road Haulage Executive is not 12,348. That is the staff—administrative, supervisory, technical and clerical—running throughout the thousand depots of the Road Haulage Executive from Land's End to John o' Groats.
I do not know whether among the many documents the hon. Gentleman has before him he has the Transport Statistics of the B.T.C., 1952, series No. 3. If he will turn to Period III, page B3, he will see:
Administrative and clerical, 12,289.
and under quite a different heading the number of supervisory officers.
If the Minister did not rely so much upon statistics but only took the trouble to look at the Road Haulage Executive itself, he would know what the answer is. The headquarters' staff of the Road Haulage Executive is at St. Marylebone and numbers 400. Four hundred is the number of people concentrated in the headquarters. I am sure this figure must be known. Well, it obviously is not known to the right hon. Gentleman or he would not have made such a silly mistake. It is in the thousand local depots up and down the country where this figure of 12,000 staff is to be found.
Contrast that with the situation under private enterprise. In even the smallest operating unit there would be the governor, the foreman, the typist, the clerk, the accountant—[Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite know so little about this that they might at least listen. They have betrayed their ignorance about this subject many times today. I quite agree, a mere error of some 3,000 per cent. in the number of people at headquarters is small. It is the view of a great many experts in this country, people who do know about it, that the organisation of the Road Haulage Executive has resulted in a saving of administrative staff in every direction. [Laughter.] Silly laughter will not destroy the facts.
I now turn to the suggestion that the Government are acting in accordance with their Election pledges. They promised two things. They promised to return road haulage to the previous owners, and they promised to get rid of the 25-mile limit. Neither of those two things are they doing in this White Paper. They are carrying out neither of those pledges. These people will not come back into road transport. The small men whose companies have been bought have re-invested in other things.
The people who are coming back into road transport if this policy goes through are the big financial interests, who are already nibbling with a view to getting a quick profit out of this. It is to them that it will be passed back. It is not going back to the small man, the sort of man to whom the "Daily Mail" editorial writer says, "let's buy a lorry." I warrant they will sell these operable units to financial interests in the main, if they are to make a profit at all. That is where they are going, and we shall see how far it turns out that way.
Why are the Government not carrying out their election promises to lift the 25-mile limit? Because they say that it is impossible to do so at the present time. Lord Leathers said in another place that he had inside information on this. He could not do it because if he did it would make the position of the Road Executive impossible. The only thing that he was asked about he was told could not be done. If the Government had asked about the rest of the policy in this White Paper, they would have found that the people equally had no time for what they are proposing to do.
I want to say a word about finance and particularly about paragraph 10 of the White Paper. I do not understand fully what it means, nor do many people with whom I have talked it over. It makes two statements. It says:
Since the goodwill of the former businesses out of which the Road Haulage Executive was
formed has substantially disappeared, its undertaking is unlikely to be sold at the price at which it was bought.
The second thing it says is:
On the other hand, the units to be marketed will be going concerns and purchasers can be expected to pay for the trading rights and opportunities which go with them.
I always understood that the goodwill went with the business, not with the purchaser or with the seller of the business. It cannot be the Government's case that in fact when these businesses are sold fewer customers are going to the Road Haulage Executive's successors than now go to the road hauliers. Their case is the very reverse; so how can it be claimed that goodwill is disappearing? Of course, it is not. The goodwill is there. Why do the Government propose to sell this profitable undertaking at a loss, unless it is just to make up to their friends for their contributions to the Tory Party?
The Prime Minister thinks that is a dirty thing to say. May I ask any business man in this House whether he would seriously consider selling an undertaking the employed capital of which is of the order of £80 million, and which is making a profit now of £3 million a year, at a loss which may be as much as £20 million? What they would do, even if they thought they had to sell, or if their political convictions made them sell later on, would be to hold on until they could get the price. Does the Prime Minister really believe, when he is throwing away millions of public money like this, that we intend to be tender when we take back public property again? Make no mistake about that at all.
Let me say this about compensation. I see no reason why anybody who now possesses road haulage vehicles should expect automatically to be nationalised when the Labour Government get back to office. Some of them may well be left outside if their vehicles are not needed for the purposes of an integrated transport system. There is no reason at all why we should spend public money on buying vehicles next time unless they are really needed.
The Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, lays down that licences have to be renewed at certain intervals of time. All these gentlemen who now acquire these undertakings will have to come up for renewal of their licences at regular intervals. It may well be that when the integrated public system is running properly we shall have sufficient transport to be able to do without the operations of these men on the roads. [HON. MEMBERS: "We?"] I am referring to the nation.
The last time the investors in road transport could properly claim that they ought to be taken over, compensated and nationalised if we intended to put them out of business. After all, they had been in the business before nationalisation had become an accomplished fact. The consequence was that the Road Haulage Executive bought a lot of rubbish. It had to take over a lot of transport that no one in his sense would have bought if he could have avoided it. It took over buildings, plant and machinery which were a disgrace, and would be a disgrace, to any public transport system. It has now improved them.
Some people are now going to take them back again. We shall see how they are run, and we shall have to decide when the time comes whether we need to take over a great many of the commercial vehicles or the plant then in existence. If we do not have to take them over, then no one will be able to complain if they are not compensated. Also, if they do not have their licences renewed because there is a sufficiency of public transport, that is a risk which they have run since the 1933 Act came into existence. So there is no reason at all why anybody should have any particular qualms about the matter.
My right hon. Friend has stated the position about compensation. We do not intend to have the public robbed twice.
I hope hon. Members will not rob the Parliamentary Secretary of his time. I will say one word about "who robbed them the first time," because it has a bearing on the question of goodwill. Many road haulage organisations were extremely fortunate to be bought in 1947–49 on the basis of their war-time and immediate post-war profits. I say this to the Minister because I hope it will help him in negotiations.
When the Port of London was closed during the war, the whole pattern of long-distance road traffic in this country was distorted. There was much more road haulage running over longer distances than there has ever been in a normal peace-time pattern. When London was restored to its usual place in the transport system, the pattern was altered once again. Those gentlemen were bought out in 1947 and 1948 at Rolls Royce terms upon the profits that were made at a period when the road haulage industry was singularly fortunate and wealthy because of the traffic which it had been undertaking.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary how he proposes that rings and cartels shall be prevented from ganging up in order to prevent a proper price being offered for these operable units. Is it true that some financial interests have already nibbled at these units, and, if so, can he tell us who they are and what they are expecting to do about them?
The Prime Minister and the Government are going back on all informed opinion over the last 20 years. There is not a word in the White Paper about the integration of road and rail transport which came before the Royal Commission in 1931, was the whole basis of the Salter Conference in 1932, underlay the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, and resulted in the Transport Advisory Committee of 1937 being told by the then Minister of Transport that they were only to consider the "square deal" proposals on the longterm integration of road and rail. All this the Prime Minister has thrown aside.
There is not a word in the White Paper that he intends to go ahead with the longterm co-ordination of road and rail. There is not a word about the rate structure, and no word about whether the railways are to be relieved of any of their common carrier obligations. Are we now to enter into a rate war between one set of road vehicles and another, between the roads and the railways, with all the consequential detrimental effects on the men's conditions and wages with the consequential effects on the maintenance of the lorries and the unroadworthiness that characterised so many of them before British Road Services got going?
This is a sordid party deal. No single transport expert opinion, except that associated with the Road Haulage Association, is in line with the Government in this matter. Surely that should give them cause to think. Surely they ought to pause before they rush ahead into this matter; or is it that in place of the advice that the Minister is going to seek from the transport interests, he will merely say to them, "We realise we have got into a mess. Now, how are you going to help us work it?" That is really about the whole basis of what the Minister is proposing to do.
This cannot last. Whether the Labour Party are prepared to re-nationalise road haulage is beside the point. This is not a solution to the long-term problem of road and rail. As such, there will have to be another solution. As such, there will have to be further proposals. When we re-assume the Government of the day, we shall re-integrate road and rail under public ownership, and we will make certain that the evil that the Conservative Government are proposing to do is undone at the earliest possible moment.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
refuses to give its approval to the proposals contained in Command Paper 8538 which, while containing no constructive policy, are calculated to destroy the properly integrated transport system which was in process of being built up and to return the industry to the wasteful competition disapproved by successive inquiries which the country cannot afford. It further condemns the proposals to sell the profitable fleet of road transport vehicles to private interests at a heavy financial loss and regrets the failure to give any assurance as to the future conditions of employment to those employed in the industry.
Lest, before 11 o'clock, I suffer from a similar lapse of memory to that of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I commence my remarks by stating that I cannot advise the House to accept the Amendment.
As one who has been here all day and listened to the very high level of debate. perhaps I might offer my very genuine sympathy to the large number of hon. Gentlemen, on both sides of the House, who have been unsuccessful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker. It is an experience which all of us have suffered for many years when sitting on the back benches, and we are often consoled, as I might have been had I not spoken tonight—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with the White Paper."]—by the opinion of our friends that the best speeches in the House are those which are not delivered.
Compared with the fire and force of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, my contribution will be extremely pedestrian in character, because I shall endeavour—how successfully, it remains to be seen—to deal with the rather large number of important points of detail which have been raised by hon. Members as the debate went along.
I have been struck by two matters which have not been at all to the fore in the general framework of our discussion. No hon. Member has risen from the benches opposite to say that in his view the Transport Act, 1947, was a statute that was operating unexceptionably. Rather to my surprise no hon. Gentleman—with one exception—has criticised the proposal to de-centralise the railway system into regions very much on the lines of the system which prevailed before the war.
I have sat here all day, and I repeat that with one exception no hon. Gentleman has put that point of view.
This is a topic upon which there is a very sincere depth of feeling on both sides of the House and I hope that we shall not end on a note of sordid party motives. I would much rather tackle this on the high level on which it has been treated most of the day. I would begin, as I think is only proper, with the speech of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) who opened for the Opposition, by putting a point to him which I think the House, or some portion of it, has not even now quite appreciated.
It is a simple truism but worthy of repeating that a White Paper is not a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that when in the 1945 Parliament he brought before the House various measures of nationalisation, the opening gambit, so to speak, was a rather lengthy declaration one day after Questions of the list of industries it was proposed to bring under State control. Then the Bills came later.
A White Paper, and I would emphasise this, is, of course, a declaration of intention, and it is never the usual practice to enter into consultations before the release of such a document. I think it is worth repeating that there were no consultations before the publication of this White Paper, either with the British Transport Commission, the trade unions, the Road Haulage Association or anyone else. I submit that Her Majesty's Government acted perfectly properly in disclosing these proposals first to the House of Commons. Now, of course, the time has come for such consultations, and I would endorse what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite about the importance of such consultations. As the Prime Minister announced earlier today, there is an interval during which such a process can properly take place.
Now may I come to a matter of very great importance raised by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, on the subject of compensation. One or two other hon. Members have referred to that since, but I think it is of such importance that it is worthy of reiterating that certain Sections of the 1947 Act—98 deals with compensation and 101 and 102 with compensation, and it is our intention to write into our Bill similar provisions. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] It has been raised by more than one hon. Member and I shall not forget it. I shall come to it later. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, now."] I am going to make my speech in my own way.
The levy, and hon. Members will hear about that later in another connection, was described by the right hon. Gentleman as a "burden" and as a "flea-bite." It is a little difficult to reconcile those two descriptions—
The hon. Member's knowledge of hospital matters causes me to defer to him on such a point, but I would say that it was more of an irritation.
A little later in his speech the right hon. Gentleman made a statement which really surprised me, in view of his great knowledge of transport matters. He said, I hope I am paraphrasing him correctly, "What is all this about the British Transport Commission and the Road Haulage Executive being a monopoly? Only 41,000 vehicles out of 800,000. How can that possibly be a monopoly?" How could that possibly be a monopoly? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman takes the point at once that they are, in fact, enjoying just that. They cannot ply for hire or reward. They have a monopoly of that. Every other vehicle is held within a 25-mile radius, except for one or two special instances. A C licence holder carries his own goods. I think that that is a fair point.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that this was a very unfair moment at which to take this action just when everything was going right. Dawn, apparently, awaited the Road Haulage Executive. He said that it was very unfair to do this just at the moment of success. That was a somewhat reminiscent remark which has almost a nostalgic association. It reminded me of one of the right hon. Gentleman's broadcasts in 1947 on the subject of rounding recovery corner. That coincided almost exactly with the convertibility crisis. It was only a few days later that he scared a lot of homes in this country by coming on the air at nine p.m. and informing us that the clock was striking twelve. The right hon. Gentleman does get a little confused in these matters.
Of course, we are not in a position to disclose the figures tonight, but they are not just all that good. Before I leave the right hon. Gentleman for some of the other speakers, I should like to say to him with regard to the threat which be uttered, and which was repeated later by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, that in my view—and I think that I am not alone—he does not make a very good bogeyman. I think that the nation will take the right hon. Gentleman in its stride.
I understood that before the hon. Gentleman left me he intended to state how the Government would pay this compensation. Under the 1947 Act, compensation is payable by the taking over authority-the Commission. Who will pay the compensation now? Will it be the private enterprise takers over?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), made that point with great emphasis later in the debate. I was reserving that point for my reply to him. [Interruption.] The way in which to prevent a reply being given is for there to be continuous interruption.
I should like to join in the regret already expressed about the illness this evening of the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) who made a speech earlier in the debate which, I thought, made a great impression on hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am under the difficulty that my remarks have to be, to some extent, critical of a Member who cannot be here, but I think that his statement was of such importance that a reply ought to be on the record.
The hon. Baronet, with all his great railway experience, has been out of the administration of that form of transport since nationalisation. Certain developments have taken place with which the hon. Baronet may or may not have been cognizant. The railways will, of course, retain their feeder and delivery services, but his main point concerned many of the large concerns which had been taken over by the railways to run as a road haulage adjunct. The practical difficulty is that these concerns have lost their identity in the years which have since elapsed.
The moral of this sad story is this, as I am quite certain the hon. Baronet himself would be the first to appreciate. It was these large holdings in road transport which hon. Members opposite removed from the railways so lightheartedly in 1947 and which have now been displaced. Now, when it is suggested that the railways are going to have them back and the same proposition is put forward for the former operators of other lines, it is greeted with scorn. I shall return to this topic a little later.
I now come to the speech of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). I am sorry that I missed his speech, but I have an accurate report of what he said. He apparently ridiculed competition between the regions. There has been a number of somewhat sarcastic references in the Press asking how trains can compete when proceeding to opposite points of the compass, if they are not running on parallel lines and the like. Of course, the difficulty about competition here is largely psychological. The Prime Minister made the point very well this afternoon when he spoke about the return of the team spirit, and, as far as the part of the country which I have the honour to represent is concerned, I can assure the House that the railway workers very much look forward to the day when, once again, they will be working for the Great Western.
The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) told us, and I do not dispute the figures he gave, that, pre-war, 23 per cent. of road haulage was run by large concerns, and he ridiculed the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the industry consisted largely of small men, whose wives did the books and the like. After all, 23 per cent. does leave 77 per cent., and, therefore, 77 percent. of the road haulage industry was in the hands of quite small units, and it is reasonable to suppose that many of them had entered into the bonds of holy matrimony and were receiving the kind of assistance to which my right hon. Friend referred.
We were all glad to hear, after a long interval, the hon. Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole), who has not been able to address us for a long time.
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, as he has been kind enough to refer to my speech, and since I asked him three specific questions about compensation, will he please answer them?
The fewer the interruptions, the better the chance of receiving an answer. It is so simple when it comes; indeed, it is.
The hon. Member for Perry Barr asked us what would be the method of decentralisation. We shall ask the British Transport Commission to prepare a scheme which will be submitted to my right hon. Friend, and compensation as it affects the transfer of traffic from rail to road will be the task of the Transport Tribunal. It is one of great difficulty, but, we believe, not beyond their capacity to perform. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), I thought, made a most valuable contribution when he talked to us about the disadvantages of remote control and pointed out how integration and co-ordination—and this is the point I would commend to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) because it is a matter on which we differ on both sides of the House—can be just as well achieved by allowing the trader to choose his own form of transport as by an over-all regimentation.
The right hon. Member for East Ham, South, the previous Minister of Transport, and the chef who prepared the hash we are now consuming, asked about the disposal of public property, but may I first of all come to the point which raised so much interest opposite, that about the compensation to be paid to employees and how it is to be financed? It is to be financed out of the despised levy. I hope we shall now succeed in gaining the support of hon. Members opposite for that part of our proposal which is the machinery for providing that compensation.
I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I want to be clear on this point. Does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the £4 million which we thought was to be used for the relief of the railways which the party opposite are knocking about is now also to cover the compensation for the workpeople under the provisions of the 1947 Act?
The levy had more than one object. One was the amortisation machinery, and I want to come to that before 11 o'clock because it is rather important, and the other was the transfer of traffic from rail to road, to which I have been referring, and the levy will also be strong enough to carry this. It is, of course, paid for by the road hauliers. That is the estimate at the opening of the scheme.
I now come to another point made by the right hon. Member for East Ham, South. This was also—
I have given way a number of times, and I did apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I was trying to deal with the important contribution of the right hon. Member for East Ham, South, who was the previous Minister of Transport.
May I say to him and to the House that there is no intention to sell below the market price as he suggests? All that we have said is that the market price is lower than the price paid which included good will, and which, after all, is a matter of personal attention in the building up of a private business, and which is so easily dissipated by a State organisation. To a great extent, that has disappeared, and, of course, the price paid will be depressed still further if the threats uttered by hon. Gentlemen opposite are taken seriously. But we do expect to get something from our customers for the right trade. We intend to do exactly what the right hon. Gentleman did, to consult all the interests concerned before the Bill is introduced.
The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the road interests of the railways and I was trying to deal with them when I was referring to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon. The object is to secure independent private enterprise to give a better service than the monopoly has done. There may be special cases where it would be a good thing to let the railways buy, and that certainly will be considered.
I come now to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, who made a very important contribution to the debate. I begin with the criticism he made of his right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South, when the hon. Gentleman talked about Rolls-Royce prices and the public being robbed twice over. That was a harsh reflection on a very conscientious Minister. I want in all good temper to say also to the hon. Member that I found very much below his usual level of controversy the remarks he thought proper to make about my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay), who was Minister of Transport during the time that we were at work on these proposals.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that my right hon. Friend had been going round discussing these matters with all kinds of bodies. He and I have known each other for a long time now. I do not know whether he will accept my assurance—and I have been in on this matter from the moment that the Government took office—that there is no truth at all in the suggestions he ahs made. If he has trade papers suggesting that conversations took place will the hon. Gentleman produce them now? I will give way to him if he does.
I refer the Parliamentary Secretary to various issues of "Motor Transport," a well-known trade paper, beginning any time after the first of this year, in which, on the first page, he will find a number of references to luncheons given by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce and to conversations of one sort and another between the then Minister and these bodies. These copies are in the Library now and can be found in a few moments.
It is, after all, a custom of this House that when a serious charge of that kind is made against a Minister, or indeed against any other hon. Member, it should be at least quoted and made available in the House and placed on the record.
There is just time to say, before the Division is taken, that the Government, having been criticised on this White Paper by hon. Members opposite and also with very considerable vehemence by the road hauliers, whom hon. Members opposite have described as being friends of ours, are convinced that we have acted in the national interest.
|Division No. 141.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Erroll, F. J.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Fell, A.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Finlay, Graeme||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J C.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Fisher, Nigel||Longden, Gilbert (Hertz, S.W.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R F||Low, A. R. W.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Fort, R.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Foster, John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wymbe)||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir David Maxwell||McCallum, Major D|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Gage, C. H.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D (Pollok)||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I of Wight)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Barber, A. P. L.||Gammans, L. D.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Baxter, A. B.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G Lloyd||MacLeod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Godber, J. B.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Gough, C. F. H.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Gower, H. R.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Graham, Sir Fergus||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Markham, Major S. F.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Harden, J. R. E.||Marples, A. E.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)|
|Black, C. W.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maude, Angus|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Harrison, Col. Harwood (Eye)||Maudling, R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Harvey, Air Cdr. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S L. C|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Meller, Sir John|
|Braine, B. R.||Hay, John||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Heald, Sir Lionel||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Heath, Edward||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Higgs, J. M. C.||Nabarro, G. D. N|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Holland-Martin, C. J||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hollis, M. C.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron-Walden)||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Nutting, Anthony|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hopkinson, Henry||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Odey, G. W.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Horobin, I. M.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Channon, H.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Osborne, C.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W)||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Partridge, E.|
|Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cole, Norman||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Hurd, A. R.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Jennings, R.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Crowder, John E. (Finchley)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip-Northwood)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Johnson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Redmayne, M.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kaberry, D.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|De la Bére, R.||Keeling, Sir Edward||Renton, D. L. M|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Roberts, Peter (Healey)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lambert, Hon, G.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lambton, Viscount||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Donner, P. W.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Leather, E. H. C.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Drayson, G. B.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Russell, R. S.|
|Drewe, C.||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lindsay, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Linstead, H. N.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon, D. M.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Scott, R. Donald||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Walker-Smith, D. C|
|Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R||Studholme, H. G.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Shepherd, William||Sutcliffe, H.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon C|
|Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Teeling, W.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)||Wellwood, W.|
|Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Snadden, W. McN||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Soames, Capt. C.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Thorneycrott, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Speir, R. M.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.||Williams, R Dudley (Exeter)|
|Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Tilney, John||Wills, G.|
|Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||Turner, H. F. L.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Turton, R. H.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Stevens, G. P.||Tweesdmuir, Lady||York, C|
|Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col, M.||Vosper, D. F.||Brigadier Mackeson and|
|Storey, S.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)||Mr. Butcher.|
|Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Donnelly, D. L.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Adams, Richard||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Edelman, M.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jones, T. W. (Merloneth)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Keenan, W.|
|Baird, J.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Kenyon, C.|
|Balfour, A.||Ewart, R.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Fernyhough, E.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Bartley, P.||Field, W. J.||Kinley, J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Fienburgh, W.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Bence, C. R.||Finch, H. J.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Benson, G.||Follick, M.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Beswick, F.||Foot, M, M.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A (Ebbw Vale)||Forman, J. C.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M|
|Blackburn, F.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Logan, D. G.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||McGhee, H. G|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T N.||McGovern, J.|
|Boardman, H.||Gibson, C. W.||McInnes, J|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Glanville, James||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Gooch, E. G.||McLeavy, F.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||MacPherson, Mallm (Stirling)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Grey, C. F.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brown, Rt. Han. George (Belper)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Burke, W. A.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Manuel, A. C.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hamilton, W. W.||Messer, F.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Hannan, W.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Champion, A. J.||Hargreaves, A.||Mitchison, G. R|
|Chapman, W. D.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Monslow, W.|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Hastings, S.||Moody, A. S.|
|Clunie, J.||Hayman, F. H.||Morgan, Dr. H. B W|
|Cocks, F. S.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Morley, R.|
|Coldrick, W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Collick, P. H.||Herbison, Miss M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Cook, T. F.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mort, D. L.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hobson, C. R.||Moyle, A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Holman, P.||Mulley, F. W|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Houghton, Douglas||Murray, J. D.|
|Crosland, C. A. R||Hoy, J. H.||Nally, W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hubbard, T. F.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Daines, P.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P. J|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||O'Brien, T.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Orbach, M.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Oswald, T.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Padley, W. E.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Paget, R. T.|
|Deer, G.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Janner, B.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jay, Rt. Hon D. P. T.||Pannell, Charles|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Viant, S. P|
|Parker, J.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Wallace, H. W|
|Paton, J.||Slater, J.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M (Bradford, C.)|
|Peart, T. F.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Snow, J. W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Poole, C. C.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Porter, G.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||West, D. G.|
|Price, Joseph (Westhoughton)||Sparks, J. A.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Steele, T.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Pryde, D. J.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wigg, George|
|Rankin, John||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Wilcock, Group Copt C. A. B.|
|Reeves, J.||Stress, Dr. Barnett||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Swingler, S. T.||Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)|
|Rhodes, H.||Sylvester, G. O.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Richards, R.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Thomas, David (Aberdare)||Williams, W. R (Droylsden)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Ross, William||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Schofield, S. (Barnsley)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Thurtle, Ernest||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Timmons, J.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Tomney, F.||Yates, V. F.|
|Short, E. W.||Turner-Samuels, M.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Usborne, H. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Royle and Mr. Holmes.|