Transport (Government Policy)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st May 1952.

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Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon 12:00 am, 21st May 1952

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.