I beg to move,
That this House notes with approval the Fourth Annual Report of the British Transport Commission as marking a further stage in providing an efficient public transport system through the integration of road and rail traffic under common ownership.
On previous occasions the Minister of Transport has accepted responsibility for moving a Motion to approve the Annual Report of the British Transport Commission. It is only right that the Commission should look to the Minister to be their voice in this Chamber and to answer any criticisms; but, of course, we all recognise that the present Minister of Transport is not there to support the British Transport Commission; he is there to destroy them if he gets the opportunity. One has only to look at the Amendment on the Order Paper to observe the somewhat churlish attitude of the Government towards this problem.
The Motion which I have moved consists of two parts. The first part is a very modest expression of approval, and the second part is a statement of fact. One would have thought that the Government could at least have accepted that modest acknowledgement of a very fine piece of work done by a number of business men who have had no part in the political controversies that surround this matter, but who have done a very fine piece of transport reorganisation.
The Government Amendment proposes to remove from our Motion this indication of the approval of this House and to substitute the following words:
while recognising the efforts of the British Transport Commission and the Executives. …
Efforts can be good or they can be bad, but I certainly consider that the efforts of this Government in matters of transport have been very bad indeed. The second point in the Amendment is that the Government believes that the Commission
were entrusted by the Transport Act of 1947 with an impossible task, the attempt to discharge which has seriously impeded the interchange of goods and services throughout Great Britain.
I suggest that it is up to the Minister and those who support his policy to prove those words, and certainly there is no evidence in the Report we are discussing here today to support that contention.
I want, first, to quote what I consider is quite an impartial opinion of a transport journal on this matter of
an impossible task, the attempt to discharge which has seriously impeded the interchange of goods and services throughout Great Britain.
The Minister cannot very well complain about this transport journal because his own photograph figures in it and he has sent a message of congratulation to it. It is not concerned with any particular aspect of transport. It is a transport-minded journal, but is not pro-railway, pro-road, pro-water or pro-air. In dealing with this Annual Report, it says of British Railways and of the Railway Executive:
On the railways there was a consistent improvement in the use of equipment and staff. The efficiency of freight working is best reflected in 'net ton-miles hauled per total freight engine hour,' which have risen from 461 in 1938 to 595 in 1951. This is the highest level of efficiency yet produced for freight operation in this small and crowded country. The improvement since pre-war is some 30 per
cent. It has been achieved in spite of inadequate capital re-equipment. The steady progress during the last four years is due largely to measures taken to unify operations on a national basis, to eliminate uneconomic routeing dictated by the old territorial interests, and to remove other barriers to efficiency which formerly existed.
That is the view of practical transport operators in this country after four years' administration by the Railway Executive. It is a disgraceful political act and does not redound to the credit of any Government or any party that they should ignore practical transport opinion, destroy a solid business effort of this description and throw a vital transport industry back once more into the chaos that characterised it in the first half of this century. I will now read to the House what this Journal says about the road haulage organisation. It states:
Although the organisation was absorbing almost 1,000 undertakings during the earlier part of 1951, the proportion of totally empty running diminished, the average load per vehicle increased, and the number of complaints declined. The number of packages forwarded in 1951 is estimated to be of the order of 250 million.
Therefore, I suggest that there is no ground, except that of political prejudice, for the Amendment which the Government propose to move to our Motion.
Yes, it is "Transport Management." As 10 months of the period covered in this Report was within my own administration, I feel it incumbent upon me to voice public appreciation of the work of the British Transport Commission, of the various Executives who have carried out their task, of the staff which has co-operated, and also of the leaders of the transport unions who have assisted. It is a pity that the Minister seeks to destroy instead of assist a very good piece of re-organisation and rationalisation in our post-war difficulties.
The next point is that these Executives have accomplished the results which are shown and proven in this Report in the face of very formidable difficulties. I recognise that all industrial managements in this country in the post-war period have not had a very easy task, and, of course, it is the general practice of people engaged in business to get on with their job and not talk as much as we do in this House.
I have emphasised on more than one occasion that the railways have not only had to confront the general run of difficulties but they have had to meet exceptional difficulties. In considering these matters, it is only right that we should refresh our memories from time to time, because when the party opposite had the responsibility of forming the Opposition they never missed an opportunity of misrepresenting this problem and so confusing the public mind.
The Railway Executive—and it would have been the same with any kind of management—had to run their services with their physical assets exhausted to a far greater extent than prevailed generally throughout industry. They had a still more difficult task because the conditions of the rolling stock could be observed by the general public. The travelling public recognised from the decisions of the Government and from debates in this House on the problems that the railways could not restore and were not being permitted to restore the quality of their service to the extent that they would have liked.
The Railway Executive also had an even more difficult psychological problem to solve in relation to the public. In the whole field of commodities there was a rapid rise in prices, and it is only natural that there should be deeply embedded in the views, instincts and reactions of the average person in this country an antagonism towards any form of rise in prices.
The machinery which has prevailed in the making of railway charges, which is of a historical nature and for which Parliament carries complete responsibility, led to an exaggerated reaction on the part of the public towards an increase in railway charges. That reaction was also exaggerated because the railway management had to tackle the unenviable task of adjusting their level of charges to the level of cost to the community after the war.
In their political campaigns the party opposite directly fostered and aggravated that reaction of the community, to what I thought was a very unfair extent, against those who had to carry on the administration of our railways. The railways are a vital element in our economic life and whoever is responsible for their management is entitled to the sympathetic understanding of hon. Members of this House.
The third difficulty which the railway management had to meet was the need, in the national interest, to restrict capital expenditure. Anyone who has had the responsibility of carrying out that policy as a member of the Government knows how difficult it is to enforce it over a vast variety of unconnected units and businesses. Purchases of steel and timber are very large items in an industry like the railway industry, whether it is under one or four managements, and it is very easy for any Government to look in the direction of the railways for the achievement of some success in a policy of restricting capital investment. In the case of the railways, whose accounts are made public, it was quite easy for Government policy in that direction to become effective. I consider that the railways have suffered much more than the average industry from the operation of that policy.
The Road Haulage Executive had to confront an entirely different set of problems. Because of the factors which I have already mentioned, the railways were prevented from expanding and modernising their services; but road transport vehicles came on to the market much more readily and easily, with greater freedom from restrictions, than was the case with railway equipment. It is easy to understand why that should be so.
While the Government, quite naturally, aimed to divert as many transport vehicles as possible to the export market, nevertheless we cannot control world affairs, and every now and again, through the blocking of import licences or by some other Government decision elsewhere, lorries piled up in this country and were subsequently released on to the home market. The result has been that the number of lorries that have come on to the roads in the post-war period has been increasing steadily.
The supply of vehicles has not been the problem here. The problem has been one of rationalisation. This country cannot afford to waste any of its physical assets. It must direct its attention more and more to obtaining greater output, not only from labour but from capital resources which we put into plant and equipment. Therefore, the policy which we followed in the first half of this century, of allowing capital resources to flow to an unnecessary extent into wasteful and redundant transport services, in the last resort does not bring any advantage in any direction to any part of our national economy.
It has followed that, as opposed to pro-road and pro-railway opinion, transport people have directed their minds towards bringing about a more efficient and more economical use of our transport assets. The Road Haulage Executive were faced with the largest rationalisation process that any industry has been called upon to undertake. According to paragraph 7 of the British Transport Commission's Fourth Annual Report, in a period of three years—they did not commence to function until the end of 1948 —the Road Haulage Executive have had to take over, partly by voluntary agreement and partly by process of acquisition, 3,766 undertakings and mould them into a national network of road delivery services.
Some of these vehicles and undertakings were acquired by voluntary ageement, which represents the sanctity of free contract. Others were acquired by the Parliamentary process of compulsion. They created a nation-wide organisation. The quality and standard of the Road Haulage Executive's fleet is much higher than it was under private enterprise. This is not a question of political prejudice. Anyone who drives on the highways of this country has been able to see in the last year or two that, without any qualification or dispute, not only the garages and depots but the vehicles running on the highways are of a much higher standard, and all the figures that represent the test of efficiency support the view that I have put forward.
Therefore, I say that the Road Haulage Executive has done a remarkable task and I should have thought that hon. Members would have been proud of the result. We are proud of any advance we may make in the technical field, in civil aviation, engineering, shipping or in some other direction, and when any task is performed that lifts the prestige of this country we all take a natural pride in the accomplishment. I do not think that anywhere in the world in the post-war period has any body of men been able to rationalise any industry with such ease, efficiency and economy as the Road Haulage Executive have done.
The right hon. Gentleman has talked about the much higher standard of the industry, but does he recollect that when he was on this side of the House there was an Adjournment debate in which I reminded him that there had been rises in charges in a particular instance of from 25 per cent. to 40 per cent.?
I have never evaded the fact that transport charges must go up with the increase in the general level of prices. It is useless to avoid an issue of that kind. But I do say that transport charges in this country in the post-war period have not moved up to the same extent as the general level of prices; and that, in my view, is the test.
As to the increases in the charges of the Road Haulage Executive, they were in total the same increases as were authorised by the Road Haulage Association in respect of the private hauliers. Any operator of C licence vehicles will also frankly admit that the cost of running a C licence fleet has increased very substantially over the pre-war figures. Therefore, I say that the businessmen have done very well indeed.
I do not intend to occupy a lot of time in my opening remarks, but there are one or two points that I should like to emphasise. There is so much material in this Report that hon. Members in all parts of the House have ample opportunity to deal more fully with other matters than possibly I should wish to do. I want to say a few words on the financial aspect of the matter. In paragraph 28 of the Report, the British Transport Commission have done a very good piece of work in setting out very clearly the financial details of the past four years' administration. I think it is essential that we should get these figures clearly in our minds.
I have always been opposed to the introduction of subsidies into this field of transport. I recognise that there is plenty of room for differences of opinion, both within my own party and elsewhere, but I have always been definitely opposed to the introduction of a subsidy, and I have never yet seen any evidence in the figures to convince me that at the moment a subsidy is necessary. On the other hand, I have taken the view that many obligations and burdens have been put on the railways that do not legitimately belong there. Other interests have shifted their responsibilities on to the railways. I have long held the view that highways, Service travel, level crossings and a variety of matters of that description needed rectification in the interests of the railways.
Taking the overall position, I want to recall these figures because it is desirable that they should go on record. The British Transport Commission point out that the working surplus that they have made on the whole of their undertaking in four years amounted to £165 million. Any group of business companies that had a working surplus of £165 million would not be described in the public Press or by any Member of Parliament as having made a loss on their undertaking. That figure represents an average of £41 million a year. In those four years, after meeting the central charge for interest and administration, etc., they have built up a deficiency of £40 million.
Of that £40 million, £13£ million represented the capital redemption charge and is in no way a hopeless and irremedial loss. Therefore, the total deficiency on their trading receipts of £2,200 million in four years is only £25 million or £26 million. Anyone who knows anything about figures of this description should appreciate that a loss of £26 million on a turnover of £2,200 million, after paying interest at the rate of about £40 million a year, does not represent a deficiency that is difficult to meet. If this House would give the British Transport Commission the support that it needs and deserves, that problem could easily be overcome.
In this 1951 Report, the British Transport Commission have balanced their accounts. Immediately they do so, the Government start a deliberate policy to unbalance their accounts. That is what we have witnessed in the last few months. It must have been known by the Government at Easter this year that the 1951 accounts were in balance and represented a slight surplus. It must also have been known to the Government that if the policy that had been sanctioned by the Tribunal and which had been proceeding in the normal way had been allowed to continue, the British Transport Commission would have continued to balance their accounts and would have been able to commence writing off that deficiency of £40 million.
Instead of that, from Easter onwards we have seen the Government following a policy and making a series of definite decisions that could have no other purpose than to ruin the situation and to unbalance the accounts of the British Transport Commission. I know of no similar policy that has ever been followed by a Government of this country—deliberately to try to unbalance one of our vital and basic industries.
I made my position clear when we debated this matter on a previous occasion. During the hearings of the Tribunal, the Minister has—and had —power to represent the views of the Government. Anyone with the knowledge of the relationship of a Minister to industry knows very well that if the Minister had discussed with the British Transport Commission the question of the discretionary powers which the Tribunal had left with them, it is inconceivable that the Commission would have ignored the views of the Government. I have never pretended that an administration cannot make mistakes. I can declare publicly that, as far as I am concerned, the changing in the fare stages at the same time as there was an increase in fares sanctioned by the Tribunal, represented bad judgment. Those matters could have been represented to the Commission.
But to secure modifications and to express public opinion in Parliament and elsewhere is entirely different from a series of decisions which undermine the financial stability of the Commission. No one can argue with the information which the British Transport Commission has displayed in diagram No. 7 on page 27 of the Report that the British Transport Commission have sought a solution of all their difficulties by turning readily to an increase in fares—and they could not do that in any case, for the Tribunal would stop them.
If we look at the figures for 1951 and compare them with those for 1939, we find that the increase in road passenger fares was 77 per cent.; the increase in freight charges was 99 per cent.; but the cost to the railways went up by 150 per cent.—a gap of 57 per cent. It is quite clear that with charges of that kind the Commission could not in any way have achieved a balance in 1951 without making substantial economies. Therefore, as these figures disclose that substantial economies have been secured, I claim that there is no case for the Government's Amendment to our Motion.
The only other point upon which I 'want to touch is the disposal of assets. If we look at the relevant paragraphs in the Commission's Report, we see once again the value of an overall policy body like the British Transport Commission in relation to the various branches of transport. It is not until one gets a body which is detached from the day-to-day management and operation of affairs that one can bring to bear an impartial and neutral view, so that it can be decided which are the redundant and obsolete parts of any particular service under the administration of that body.
In the paragraphs which deal with the disposal of assets, we see the operation of a piece of machinery which is vitally needed, if we can get it, in all aspects of our national life today—the cutting out of obsolete parts of the machine and the wiping out of redundant assets which public taste and use have already thrown aside. When we had separate managements none of them would give up any of these particular things. They wasted their resources, and that all went into the ultimate cost of the service. They wasted their resources because they could not bring themselves to cut down, thinking that to do so would reflect on their administration and be taken as evidence of defeat. But here we see the cutting out and removal of wasting and redundant assets.
I end by making an appeal, not to the parties in this House, but to the great business community outside, who have a vital need for the transport industry, particularly an industry which is integrated and complementary instead of ruinous and antagonistic. I hope that in the time we have to reflect between now and another Session of Parliament.
the business community will make known their views to this Government.
I am sure that the whole House, without distinction of party, will be glad to see once more in his place my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) my immediate predecessor at the Ministry of Transport. If I may be allowed to speak on a personal note, I should like to say once more that the respect and affection which he inspired whilst at the Ministry of Transport have made my difficult task a great deal easier. His good health today makes me wonder whether we could not make some working arrangement, week in and week out, to conduct the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation together.
I welcome the speech made by the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes). He is always scrupulously fair in debate. When he was at the Ministry of Transport he made a great reputation for himself by the way in which he administered that Department and the various Acts under which British Transport is controlled. There was the Act of 1930 which, though it was introduced by the Labour Government of the day, would otherwise have been introduced by a Conservative Government had they been elected, and on which no Division was taken. That Act, incidentally, I believe, witnessed the first Front Bench speech in the House which was read from start to finish and which led to the interjection by Jack Jones whether he would be in order in moving a vote of thanks to the typist. The Act of 1933, though challenged when it was introduced by Oliver Stanley, represented, by and large, a broad measure of national agreement.
I welcome the speech of the right hon. Gentleman but I disagree with him in two particulars, though I do not challenge him very seriously on either of them. The first is his suggestion that in some way I have failed in my duty by not recommending to the House of Commons this Report of the Transport Commission. The sooner we get back to the practice of the Government of the day being able to recommend to the House in the old form—which I recognise that the Labour Party followed in 1949 and 1950—that the House take note of the report of a nationalised body, the better it will be for all concerned. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall be very glad when the time-table allows that procedure to be adopted; but at the moment his party is excessively rich in Supply Days and the Government are very limited as to time.
My only other criticism is that the right hon. Gentleman suggested that we had set out at Easter of this year deliberately to unbalance the accounts of the Commission. He recognised, in reply to a supplementary question, that the alteration in fare stages and the fare increases at the same time was not a happy thing and he left us to wonder what action he would have taken if he had had the responsibility. I do not doubt for a moment that his action would have been exactly the same as that which was taken.
If he is prepared to say that the Labour Party would have left these disproportionate charges imposed on the people of London and outside without any use of the Minister's powers of direction, that hardly squares with the consistent questioning to which I and my right hon. Friend were subjected during the period when the review of our attitude towards the fares structure was taking place. Apart from those two issues, I do not quarrel with what the right hon. Gentleman said.
I join with him in paying a tribute to the members of the Commission and the Executives, who have rendered great service to this country. Of the Chairman of the British Transport Commission, I want to say that it will be a bad day for Great Britain when someone with his integrity, courage, independence of mind and readiness to say what he thinks ceases to be ready or available to take part in national service. I appreciate my contact with Lord Hurcomb and with all his Commission and also with the Executives. I appreciate my contact with some hon. Members opposite, but that does not always mean that I have to agree with everything they say.
No body of people could have put more enthusiasm and work than these people have done into the administration of an Act, and any criticism which we make is not of the spirit which they have brought to their task or the way in which they have discharged it, but is of the terms of reference which the Act included and to which they have throughout been committed. I would say this about the Transport Act of 1947; that even the most fearsome critics of the present Government's new Transport Bill—the independent critics, that is; I am not referring for the moment to the Socialist Party all unite in saying that drastic transformation of the 1947 Act is absolutely necessary.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Commission have given us a very interesting Report. It is a very good Report and a very well-written Report. Perhaps it is a shade more biography than history, but at this minute I do not altogether quarrel with that form. It is, indeed, a very well-written Report. Thomas Carlyle said—and this is no reflection on the members of the Commission,
A well-written Life is almost as rare as a well-spent one.
This is a well-written Life, and we welcome it.
I do not protest over-much if here and there it is clear that the Commission's Report this year has been written with the Government's Transport Bill in mind. Indeed, it is perhaps true that the publication of the Transport Bill and the White Paper may have helped all those who have brought this Report to fruition to clear their minds and to clarify certain issues, for, of course, since the publication of the White Paper there has been considerable consultation between myself, my colleagues, my Department and the British Transport Commission and, as I say, I have very much valued this consultation.
It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the Government of the day come in for a number of references throughout the Commission's Report—rather oblique references—dealing with shortages of material and delays in coming to a decision. It will not have escaped the House, I think, that for 10 months of the year under review the Government of the day who are censured in this mild way are, in fact, a Government in which the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister.
I do not deny that at all; it shows the value of consultations and it reinforces the point which I quoted from the right hon. Member for East Ham, South, when I made a long speech on the White Paper, which I hope not to exceed in length today—the point about the difficulty of having that sort of consultation in advance of the Government coming to certain definite conclusions on matters of principle. As I say, for 10 months of the year under review the Government of the day were led by right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I should like to follow up this point. Why is it difficult to have consultation about matters of principle? Does not the determination of those principles partially depend on the facts which underlie them?
I could not have put it better or, probably, more briefly, than did the right hon. Member for East Ham, South, on two occasions—the Second Reading and the Third Reading of the Transport Bill in 1947; and I quoted from the right hon. Gentleman at length. If the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) would like me to quote those words again, I can do so towards the end of the debate.
I seldom like to interrupt, but the right hon. Gentleman has twice referred to my statement. I must make it clear that at all stages I had the most extensive consultations with all sections of industry, both before and during the proceedings on the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman made the position quite plain in the statement of which I reminded the House. He explained the difficulties which faced the Government of the day in consulting on what form the industry should take in advance of the publication of the Bill.
I welcome, as did the right hon. Gentleman, the achieving by the Commission this year of financial equilibrium, and they certainly deserve congratulation on that. I join with them in the hope that, for those activities which will remain part of the nationalised or centralised Commission, there will be oppor- tunities in future years to put money on one side, as Lord Hurcomb has himself wished, for replacements and things of that kind. I would also remind the House that any monopoly which is under the obligation to make ends meet, and has the ability to prepare charges schemes to do so, is in a position somewhat more favoured than that of the large range of private enterprise.
None the less, I think the Commission certainly deserve congratulation on a vastly improved year's working, which is shown, in particular, in the improvements in figures for railway freight and passenger services and the handling by the railways of this largely increased traffic. Certain desirable economies have been made this year, to which the Commission rightly draw attention, and I think the attention of Parliament should also be drawn to them, for I venture to think that some of them carry some doubts and uncertainties with them.
We welcome, of course, the closing of redundant branch lines which are not fulfilling a useful purpose and are not justifying the large expense involved, and the Commission have told us that a saving of some £900,000 a year may be achieved through this action. We welcome central purchases where central purchases lead to definite economies, although even here I think a warning note should be struck. Anybody associated with any business knows that there comes a point when an increase in bulk purchase does not give a corresponding reduction in price but leads to a series of other problems—problems of storage and of local feeling—which have to be considered and which apply some qualifying marks to the advantages of bulk purchase.
Turning to standardisation, undoubtedly certain good results to the railways have ensued, but I think hon. Members would be surprised if they knew the number of times I am hearing people say that British locomotives, for example, used to provide a most fruitful field for individual design which had reactions and repercussions all over the world; and standardisation can be carried so far that that desirable opening may be dried up.
We all welcome, I think, the mechanisation of the permanent way processes, to which the Report draws attention, and above all we welcome the efficiency index to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly referred, which showed that last year was the highest ever reached for operations in Britain—595 net ton miles per total engine hour. The right hon. Gentleman said this was mentioned, and rightly so, in glowing terms in a transport journal and I can tell him that it is not just because this transport journal published my photograph that makes me pay a tribute to the paper and even more to those whose contributions have made that result possible.
But I want the House to realise that the achievements of the British Transport Commission as shown in this Annual Report are all the achievements of separate transport activities. This is really the crux of the whole matter. These are reports of separate activities. The whole purpose of the 1947 Act was to integrate all transport activities. Improvements in separate transport services, however welcome and desirable, are no answer to the problems posed in the 1947 Act.
The need, as hon. Gentlemen opposite then said, to have an integrated transport system through the United Kingdom, was alone the justification for taking away the livelihood of a large number of private hauliers. It was not that the Road Haulage Executive would produce, as a separate entity, a good return. I wish they had been able to do so. It was because, by the owners' being deprived of their opportunities and their work, they would be contributing to an integrated transport system. That was the whole purpose of the operation. The achievements in the separate entities, valuable as they are, are no answer as to whether or not the Transport Act of 1947 has fulfilled its purpose.
I shall come, as I am bound to do, to a little more detail on that theme, for it is the absolute failure in the realm of integration, despite all the effort put into it—and the very magnitude of the effort shows how impossible the task is to achieve—that is the justification for a new approach which forces upon the Government of the day the obligation to introduce a new Transport Bill.
I should not like to say that if the world could stop still to enable theories to be worked out and to see whether a blue-print would succeed as its authors hope, it might not be a good thing to have a few more years' experience. The world cannot stop still, and meanwhile trade, industry, and agriculture in Britain, and the ordinary life of everyday people, are being deprived, because of the failure of the system of integration, of a service which we believe they could enjoy. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen will allow me a little more time, I will come to the justification of what I have said.
In regard to these separate services, I agree that those responsible are entitled to take credit, and the House will give them credit, for the way in which they have done their work, but, except for the Road Haulage Executive, the people who are doing the work on the Railway Executive, the Road Passenger Executive, the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive, the Hotels Executive and the London Passenger Transport Executive are the same people as were doing the job before.
They are the same people on the line, the same railway technicians, the same key men, as were there before nationalisation. They are there now, and they will be there in the new world of railway de-centralisation. Those are the people who have achieved these results. I cannot believe that anybody would be so naïve as to claim that the mere fact of setting up a central organisation has suddenly been responsible for immense improvements. Post-war conditions and the ever-broadening scientific knowledge applied to railways, would have brought all this about.
One is forced to strike a discordant note in regard to road services. The real profit in road operations is coming from those passenger services which, though owned by the British Transport Commission from the shareholding angle, are operated by the original operators; so there is very little politics to be made out of any charge of that kind. I do not permit myself to make any politics in my reply. In regard to the separate entities, which we more and more tend to discuss, in place of the integrated transport which was the only justification for the Socialist Bill of 1947—
The right hon. Gentleman uses the term "integration" repeatedly as a justification for his approach to the results of the operation of the British Transport Commission's services. Would he not agree that the term has a valid application not only over the whole field of British transport but within each field, and that there was a need for integration not only between road and rail, but on road and on rail and in every branch of transport?
I cannot by any means accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but I should like to give a partial answer. If I answered in detail, I should take time off my main answer. In regard to the railways, the people who know best how to integrate road and rail services are the local people. What we propose to do is to give more power to the railway regions.
In regard to road integration, what does the hon. Gentleman suggest? That the 40,000 vehicles nationalised by the Road Haulage Executive should take over the 950,000 vehicles that are free? Without that, there can be no real integration. Does he seriously suggest that the whole million or so vehicles should be handed over to the Road Haulage Executive, after the Annual Report that we have had?
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the road transport services are to function effectively. He presumes that because there has already been acquisition of a certain part of the road services, welded into what we claim on this side has proved to be an efficient, effective and economic service, there is no need for any further integration but rather the contrary, and that we must break down that which has already become integrated.
I will come to the breaking down. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not read the Report of the Road Haulage Executive which itself lays out proposals for breaking down the integration that the Executive have been busily engaged in building up over the last three years. I was coming to the other point, which I think is important, about the general aspect of transport in these various separate entities.
Transport is a service, and is not an industry. The sooner that gets into the heads of some people, the better. We can judge a factory, a firm or agriculture, and their success, by the level of their production, but transport does not create the goods. It carries them, and provides service. The test of an efficient organisation is not so much, "How much does it carry" but, "Does it carry the goods in the swiftest and the cheapest way to suit the trade and industry of the nation and the needs of the ordinary travelling public?"
The test is not, "Is the system good on paper?" but, "Does it work out well in practice?" By this test we are in a position to judge the Act of 1947, and by that test the Act has undoubtedly failed. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen will have many opportunities of arguing the contrary. They have one opportunity today and I am prepared to enter the lists with them. They will have many other opportunities later on in the year, and no doubt we shall have much of what I hope will be good-natured controversy on that issue. I would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite during this part of my speech to confine their minds to their Motion, which justifies this Report of the Commission
as marking a further stage in providing an efficient public transport system through the integration of road and rail traffic under common ownership.
How ridiculously untrue, as a statement of the existing situation or of any foreseeable situation.
What is the situation? British Road Haulage Services own 41,000 vehicles, and the A, B and C licence holders 912,000 vehicles. How can anyone seriously talk about the integration of road transport? Does anybody suggest that we should go further and bring all those A, B and C vehicles within the nationalist maw? Does anybody really suggest that? It would be very interesting to know.
Again, have we got integration in regard to passenger services? Why, even my predecessor, the Minister of Transport in the Labour Government, I know was far from satisfied with the working of the passenger area schemes, and I do not think there has been much quarrel with my decision that, as from 30th September next, the Road Passenger Executive—to whom we are grateful for the work they have done—shall be dissolved and its activities brought to an end.
We are most grateful for what they have done, but we have decided, when the Bill becomes law, to abolish the scheme-making power, and as the right hon. Gentleman was himself far from satisfied with the area passenger schemes, I do not think anybody can argue that there has been integration in that field. The widespread opposition by local authorities of all political parties, and by the unions in many cases, to the northeastern area passenger integration scheme, the south-western area scheme and the East Anglian scheme all show that in the field of passenger integration "nothing doing" was the inevitable conclusion, even of the Commission and even of the right hon. Gentleman.
Now, if it is wrong in regard to passenger integration, why should it become a sacrosanct idea in the case of freight integration? In their Report, in Paragraphs 5 and 111, and in various other places, the Commission themselves recognise the great difficulties with which they have been confronted in regard to integration. It is, I think, fair to say that all the difficulties which the 1947 Act was meant to solve now remain—unless by "integration" hon. Gentlemen opposite mean absorption of one section of the transport system in another.
It is reassuring for once to be able to quote "The Times," and indeed the "Economist," in support of what I have to say. I was interested to see that "The Times" a few days ago—and I see no reason why we should not also make "The Times" and the "Economist" quotations into a leaflet and distribute them—in the leading article, and in the "Economist" issue immediately after the publication of the Report—and I am referring at this moment to their comments on the Commission's Report—said that the Commission appeared to glance back nostalgically
almost with signs of affection to the war days when `restrictions placed on road haulage' gave the railways an exceptional volume of traffic which helped them to earn exceptionally high receipts for every loaded train mile.
"The Times" added that it might almost be said that
in running road and rail together the Commission would like to load the railways at the expense of road transport.
Now this may be understandable. It may be what hon. Gentlemen opposite want. But it is certainly not integration. It is not integration, unless by integration is meant the swallowing of one industry by another, or the curtailing of that industry even though the travelling and trading public want it. This is certainly not making transport the servant of the community, but it is making some blue-print the master of the whole community.
When the right hon. Gentleman decides to publish what the "Economist" has said, would he include this part, which refers to the action for which the right hon. Gentleman himself was responsible? The "Economist" said on 19th April:
The Government's action has made nonsense of any supposition that the Conservatives have a policy for transport.
I am sure that particular quotation was already in the Labour Party pamphlet which was being produced by the hundred thousand. I would not have given way to the hon. Gentleman if I had known that that was the only purpose of his intervention.
The Road Haulage Executive—whose affairs, by the form in which the right hon. Gentleman himself started the debate, are being discussed as separate issues—has also worked very hard in the year, but all experience shows that there has been little or no integration. Nor, indeed, can anyone, I am afraid, pretend that they have had a very successful year. The transport of passengers and freight by the railways was up in 1951; the national productivity index last year was up by 5½ per cent.; but the Road Haulage Executive, which has had a near-monopoly for its operations [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly. That is the whole purpose of the operation: the right to take over everybody in long-distance haulage. If the C licensees were left out, it was because of political reasons and the pressure of the Co-operative Party on their own right hon. Friend.
The Road Haulage Executive, with a near-monopoly of long-distance haulage, and the right to raise its freights alongside the Road Haulage Association, last year increased its carriage by 0.98 per cent. The Commission talk from time to time of the railways having the cream of their traffic removed. But who is removing the cream of the traffic from the Road Haulage Executive; and what, in fact, is happening meanwhile to private operators? Private operators—and I am more concerned, indeed mainly concerned, with the service that they render to the community rather than to the industry itself, important though that is—are bound and confined by the 1933 Act and by the 25-mile limit, so there is not much room for expansion there.
What happened last year again in the case of C licensees? About two weeks ago we had a long debate, but we had not then got the figures for 1951. The figures for 1951 show a continuation of exactly the same story. In 1948 there were 591,000 C licences, in 1949 there were 672,000, in 1950 there were 733.000, and last year, 1951, there were 796,000—an increase of 8.6 per cent. If hon. Members opposite try to suggest that this is merely the little delivery van, let us see where the increase has come. As to 7.9 per cent. it has come in vehicles not exceeding 2½ tons, but 12 per cent. of the increase has come in vehicles exceeding 2½ tons.
It cannot be put down to the small local tradesman's van. That is why the tonnage carried by the Road Haulage Executive is the same as it was last year. It was 46,500,000 tons last year and it is 46,900,000 tons this year. Manifestly, with the trade index up, with railway receipts up, and with this large increase in C licences, the Road Haulage Executive, despite all their efforts, are not able to keep their share of the market.
I cannot give way again.
The market should surely be settled by the wishes of the people engaged in the industry and trade of Britain. There is a most significant phrase at page 34 in the Commission's Report, where they talk of what would have happened if there had been no Road Haulage Executive, and they said that the existence of the Road Haulage Executive last year restrained the further "creaming" of the long-distance traffic. Is that integration?
This industry needs that sort of traffic. Should it be prevented from getting it? Who has the right to say that an act which they call "creaming" is anti-social if, in fact, it responds to the needs and urges of the trading and ordinary community in Britain? Meanwhile, we all know—indeed, I think hon. Gentlemen opposite would not deny it—that in many cases there are much longer delays in goods arriving at their destination than used to happen before.
The hon. Gentleman will have his chance to make his speech this evening, because I imagine that he will undoubtedly be lucky enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
Meanwhile, we are bound to draw attention to the overheads of the Road Haulage Executive. As I said, despite all their efforts they are not able to hold their share or increase it on the market. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that last year they acquired another 1,333 vehicles, yet the tonnage carried remained the same. At the same time as they acquired that large number of vehicles, carrying with them a staff of 2,919, there was an enormous increase in their staff—1,753. I would not wish to make too much of the charge that it does not need anybody behind the lines to get a vehicle into action, but I cannot believe that an increase of that kind and a new acquisition of 1,700 is really necessary to deal with an industry which has added only 1,333 vehicles in the course of a year.
If the hon. Member for Cardiff, SouthEast—who is no more ready than I am to give way, and I have given way a great deal this afternoon—has the time between now and when he speaks tonight to look at some of the old issues of a magazine which, I imagine, he does not despise— "The Road Way"—he will find in the July issue the accounts, in an abbreviated form, of nine firms which were rail-controlled before nationalisation.
I myself gave this answer in reply to the hon. Gentleman in the House of Commons. In case the hon. Gentleman should think that I deliberately inspired it, I would say that the answer was quite uninspired. These nine firms, over the years under review, made a profit of £772,309, after charging depreciation but before charging tax, applicable to the shareholdings. I ask hon. Gentlemen, while they are away for two months from this House, to ponder on figures like that before they regard the fabric of the Road Haulage Executive, which is only three or four years' old, as something which cannot possibly be touched without grave national disservice.
I am glad that the vehicles are better vehicles. We are all very glad that they are. We must remember that a great many of the vehicles were taken over after the war and had suffered during the war a prolonged period of high pressure on roads for which no funds were available.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) talked about, "a pretty poor hag of assets" when the railways were taken over. Although Lord Hurcomb does not use that phrase, he draws attention to the fact that if we cannot get the materials to bring the machinery up-to-date the assets are bound to deteriorate. Hon. Members opposite say that too much was given for vehicles not worth the cash. That was the fault of the Government who made the bargain and of no one else.
I would commend to the House page 123 of the Report, which shows that there is a plan by the Road Haulage Executive to break up their fleet so that the existing eight geographical divisions would control some 50 districts, each mainly a self-contained trading entity; so they themselves, by the logic of events, have been driven to the conclusion that a large national monopoly is wholly unsuited to the road haulage needs of the country.
It would have been quite impossible for any Government to have viewed a situation like this and to have taken no counter-action. If we had left the 1947 Act to continue on its way, wandering on, without alteration or amendment, certain things would certainly have happened. There would have been a steady increase in C licences, which no one denies might, in certain circumstances be uneconomic in their consequences. There would, I suppose, have been a great deal of fresh information about the relative cost of the various forms of transport and whether the machinery of the Commission was available in that field. Then, I suppose, we would have found, by the adjustment of the cost system, the Commission being driven into fields which it ought not to follow and which the traffic itself wanted to follow.
The Bill will be subject to many discussions in the House, and I look forward to them. I shall be very glad, if I am invited, to be in the neighbourhood of Morecambe during the Labour Party Conference in September, to listen to the 12 resolutions attacking the set-up under nationalised industry, which I see today are to be on the agenda.
I would point out that one of the resolutions comes from the Mid-Bedfordshire Labour Party, with which I am at least in friendly relationship. I should be very glad indeed to discuss with the unions and all concerned the problems of this Bill.
I was ready, as I said, to discuss them before the Bill was published, but the unions decided otherwise. Now the Bill is published, I shall welcome any talks and conversations we may have. I would discuss it also with the Railway Executive and Transport Commission and all engaged in transport. [An HON. MEMBER: "Too late."] I should like to make plain that, as we intend to be in power for a long time, we intend to carry through Parliament a Bill which will work efficiently.
On a point of order. The Minister has made frequent references to a Bill before Parliament. I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it is out of order to refer to legislation which is to be considered in this House. If the Minister is allowed to make these references, will the rest of us be free to discuss the Bill?
As an ordinary Member of Parliament, I took steps to look that up myself. I thought that part of the duty of a party of planners was to know what was in order.
I shall be glad to discuss the Bill in all its detail with the interests concerned. Those who want to retain the road haulage monopoly in public hands will never be satisfied. Those who also want permanently to shackle A and B licences within the 25-mile limit will never be satisfied. Those who want to hold road transport to a theory will never be satisfied.
All those who recognise the present situation recognise the need for radical changes, but they may differ as to the form any change should take. I shall have the time, patience and readiness to listen to what they have to say. The broad structure of the Bill represents the Government's intentions. I would never be too proud to listen to any advice which may come from those who want to see this Bill work, and who recognise that the existing situation cannot indefinitely be tolerated.
We approach this problem in this way. There is undoubtedly, as is generally recognised, an economic crisis in Great Britain. Transport can play a vital part in bringing this economic crisis under control. To play that vital part there has to be de-centralisation. The railways know it and many railwaymen welcome it. The Road Haulage Executive itself in the Report agrees that is so, and the Labour Party has frequently drawn attention to the need to regionalise national organisations.
The best way to deal with de-centralisation is through private enterprise and competition. We believe that the travelling public and the trader should choose the form of transport that they wish, and should themselves have to pay for it, not only in the ordinary cost of the transport that they use, but also the cost of any other transport services which it is in their own interest should also be preserved. This is the justification for the second use of the levy.
The first use, I think, is clearly right. It would be monstrously unjust to put on to the general taxpayer any loss of goodwill in regard to the sale of these assets. The second use has this purpose: for those industries which need the railways, even though their main interest may appear to lie in road haulage, it is not unreasonable that a charge of this kind, carefully arranged and evenly spread, should also be imposed.
Next we approach this problem from this point of view: it would give me more pleasure than would anything else if I could make a small contribution towards equalising the burdens and improving the competitive position between the railways and roads. I recognise that this is a very real difficulty. I do not believe that anybody takes the view that it can best be achieved by putting more burdens on the roads. It would be almost if not quite impossible to administer a common carrier obligation, an undue preference obligation or anything of that kind. As to taxation, the roads are already paying £350 million in taxes.
But there are ways in which we can help the railways. If there are other ways, I shall be ready to listen to them in the summer months that lie ahead. We can help them in regard to their capital requirements. I know, with Lord Hurcomb, how capital limitations are harming the railways' competitive position, and I will do all I can. The right hon. Gentleman knows how difficult that problem is. We shall hope also to improve their competitive position in other ways.
There is in the Bill, in Clause 22, what the Commission themselves have called the head-room Clause. This will enable the Commission to raise their charges, either freight or passenger, 10 per cent to meet any sudden increase of a temporary nature, to which Lord Hurcomb has repeatedly drawn attention, and which he no doubt has in mind in the covering letter which he wrote to me with the Report. Under the Act of 1947 the Transport Tribunal can impose any manner of conditions on charges schemes. We now intend to alter that and give much more room for manoeuvre to the Commission. Subject only to the obligation of publication under Clause 19 and certain qualifications in Clause 20 of the Bill they will have a wide measure of freedom in that field.
As to the lower charges which many of us feel they ought to be entitled to charge if they think they can get more traffic that way, they will, subject again to the qualifications in Clause 20, made necessary by the huge resources of the railways, have much greater freedom in that field.
As the House knows, I am now in a position to say emphatically that the British Transport Commission would be entitled to retain for the use of the nationalised undertaking a fleet of road vehicles approximating roughly to what was held by the old railway companies in 1947. This meets the criticism of a number of hon. Members, not least one of the criticisms of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). It will give the railways the chance of wider earning possibilities and will provide a comparison between the smaller de-nationalised units and the British Transport Commission.
Then, in regard to decentralisation of the railways themselves, I know, as I have said, that this is widely welcomed in many informed railway circles, and we look forward to the publication of their scheme. We shall do all we can to make that scheme work. Hon. Members may criticise the vagueness of the scheme, but the Act of 1947 only set up a Railway Executive to assist the British Transport Commission in its functions. We have gone a great deal further than that.
Many human interests are involved, and I shall never forget that that is so. They are involved both in the existing organisation and in the changes which Government legislation will bring about. I have done my best to give a certain amount of temporary security to those people who are working hard on the Commission and the Executives.
No, if the hon. Member would read HANSARD he would see that it is quite a long time ago, relative to my appointment, that I said that holders of appointments in the Commission and the Executive which were to terminate in August or September would be retained, not necessarily in their existing offices but, of course, at their existing salary.
The members of the Railway Executive are mainly railwaymen who will be absorbed into the new railway structure if they so wish, subject to the normal retiring age. The Road Haulage Executive will come to an end when its activitives have also come to an end. As regards the Docks and Harbours and the Hotels Executives, the eventual form which their activities may take must await the publication of the railway scheme. The London Transport Executive will be retained, though not necessarily in exactly its present form or under its present name.
To all outside who are working on the road or on the railways, I can assure them that this Government are as ready as were the Labour Government in 1947, when there was a far more sweeping proposal in regard to the railways than we are proposing today, to see that the compensation and pension provisions of that Measure are scrupulously enacted in ours. If they would look at Clauses 25 and 26 they will see that that is so.
The provisions referring to the nature of road vehicles and to the obligation to keep proper records of hours worked which are contained in the 1930 and 1933 Acts will be most scrupulously preserved. As I have said, I am anxious, during the summer, to consult all those interested, and not least with those interested in these human problems.
I have no doubt that when the House comes back in October, and later, in November, it will have benefited, and so shall I, by close contact with many of those concerned, of whom a large number support the principles of this Bill and are ready to discuss the details with me.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
while recognising the efforts of the British Transport Commission and the Executives, believes that they were entrusted by the Transport Act of 1947 with an impossible task, the
attempt to discharge which has seriously impeded the interchange of goods and services throughout Great Britain.
On a point of order. A little while ago I raised a point of order regarding a Bill. You were kind enough, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to inform me that no Bill was before the House. Could you tell me to what the Minister has been referring during the last half-hour, during which he has been mentioning various Clauses in a Bill? It is difficult to discuss a Bill which you have ruled is not before the House.
I raised the point I did because the Minister's concluding words were to recommend the Bill. He sat down, and you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, asked him to move something. The Minister said "I beg to move." I do not think it was wrong of us to assume that he was moving the Second Reading of the Transport Bill. Certainly, his speech would have led you to that conclusion, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, had you listened to it.
I do not blame the Minister for getting away from the Report of the Transport Commission, which contains a great many facts about which he does not want to know. While we recognise that that course has advantages, can we have the assurance that any hon. Member on this side of the House who wishes to refer in detail to legislative proposals which the Government are to make will be at liberty to do so in the course of this debate?
I am sure that all of us who are interested in transport have been extremely interested to listen to the speech of the Minister. In the short time the right hon. Gentleman has been at the Ministry he has managed to acquire a very glib and charming manner in the exposition of his Department's policy. I must say that he has not convinced a single person on this side of the House that the Government have any policy at all about transport.
In fact, to those of us who take our transport seriously, his speech is an insult not only to the House of Commons but to the whole country. If there is any consolation to this side of the House in his speech it is that hundreds of thousands of transport workers who are at present Labour supporters will be more strongly Labour, and those who are at present Conservative will rapidly become Socialist, like the rest of the country.
When this miserable minority Government come to their end at the next General Election, whenever that is, one of the biggest nails in their coffin will be the hopeless mess they are making of transport. There is nothing in the Transport Commission's Report and nothing that has happened since the Act came into existence that justifies the Minister saying anything what he has said about our present transport system being an absolute failure.
Let us look at the Amendment which he has moved and bear in mind the words that he used to support it. The Amendments reads:
This House, while recognising the efforts of the British Transport Commission and the Executives, believes that they were entrusted by the Transport Act of 1947 with an impossible task, the attempt to discharge which has seriously impeded the interchange of goods and services throughout Great Britain.
I thought that when the Minister moved that Amendment he would produce some facts from industry in this country to prove that the British Road Haulage Services had let it down in some way or another, or that they had failed to meet the demands made upon it by industry. He has produced no evidence at all. All he has done is to repeat, over five years later, all the completely inaccurate platitudes that his party made about transport before the 1947 Act was introduced, in spite of all the experiences we have had since.
What is the use of the Minister talking about consultation when he will not listen to any of us who want to talk. That will not make the slightest alteration to what the Tory Party called their policy on transport. He will not change his mind no matter how many people see him. He knows perfectly well that he dare not change his mind, and if ever there was a more naked attempt than this to secure the profitable part of a publicly-owned industry for private investors I have never seen it. [Laughter.]
I do not think it is at all funny. Many of us on these benches, unlike most of the party opposite, know something about transport. We have spent many years of our lives in it either in rail or road passenger or freight services. Because we have grown up with it, we realised as the years went by that the transport industry had to give the maximum service to our nation in its attempt to climb out of the economic difficulties of the 20th century if it was to emerge once more as a powerful economic nation. That was the principle embodied in the 1947 Transport Act.
Most of the people who write about transport approved the main outlines of the 1947 Act. Those of us who were engaged in the industry, although we might be biased, also approved the principle. There may be independent people whom the Minister can quote in support of his theory, but one can always find independent commentators to support one's point of view. I could quote lots of independent commentators who are supporting the Labour Party point of view. When we see what the Tory Party are going to do to the transport industry we do not think it is funny. We are appalled by it, because we know it can only result in the ruin of an industry which was well on the way towards a profitable future.
One would imagine, having listened to the Minister, that this problem was new to this country. In fact, it is not. All over the world transport services are having their problems. When I spoke in December, 1949, on this subject I referred to the difficulties being experienced by the American railway companies, and how they were making a loss of 100 million dollars. They are still having their difficulties, and the solution which is gradually being adopted all over the world is the very integration of transport services to which the Minister is opposed.
I would approve his policy much more if he would honestly say, "The Tory Party stands for private profit and we are going to give this part of the industry away to benefit our friends." That would be honest and it would be expressing the motive behind the Bill which is to be con- sidered next Session. Those people who are interested in transport in this country know perfectly well that that is the real motive behind this particular Bill.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) talked recently about prices and the putting up of fares. It is an extraordinary thing that when a public undertaking makes a profit by pursuing precisely the same methods as any other private company—when costs rise then fares are increased to meet those increased costs—it is said to be the wrong thing to do.
The hon. Gentleman seems to have misunderstood the case that I made. I am not surprised at that because he was not present at the debate, which took place on a Friday. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) and I were the only people in the House at the time. The particular case I quoted arose when an embargo was placed by British Railways on certain traffic in the early part of last year. At that moment British Road Services raised their charges 25 to 40 per cent. on the firms who had no other form of transport. That was an instance of taking advantage of the difficulties of certain firms.
It is assumed that when an hon. Member quotes a case to illustrate his point the principle of which he complains has a general application. In any case, let us leave that because I may have misunderstood the hon. Member.
Speakers on the benches opposite are constantly stating that the Transport Commission have only made a profit this year because fares have been increased That is perfectly true, and no one denies it: but it is illogical to argue that it is wrong for a public company or corporation to raise their costs or charges to meet a rise in costs, and to say it is perfectly right for a privately-owned company to do the same thing.
Much nonsense is talked about the question of rising costs. For example, one of the staggering figures given for the year under review of the actual increase in wages and costs to the Transport Commission is something like £70 million. That is a colossal figure. Again, we ought to emphasise to the people of the country, who have been lead away rather emotionally on this subject of transport fares by those who have exploited the position for political ends, that increases in transport fares, as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) at the beginning of his speech, bear no relation to rising costs in the transport industry.
For example, London Transport costs are over 120 per cent. greater than prewar and yet fares have risen only 43 per cent. Costs to British Railways are up by 150 per cent. but there is only a 77 per cent. increase in fares. There is the very big disparity between the actual increase in costs which the Commission have to face, and the amount of that increase which is passed on to the public.
It is rather extraordinary that despite the fact that increases in charges and fares are much less in proportion to the increase in costs that the Commission should have done so well this year. They point out on page 28 of the Report that:
the most important factors explaining the difference between the level of costs and the level of fares are as follows:—(a) the loadings on the services are much better; (b) there has been an increase in travel; (c) the renewal of the undertaking is not being provided for on the same basis as pre-war; (d) the remuneration of capital has been greatly diminished.
One of the things about which we hear from hon. Members opposite is that there has been a great increase in the number of the black-coated administrative staff of the Commission. That is answered on page 49 of the Report where it states that, in fact, there has been a reduction since 1948 in the number of black-coated workers in proportion to the motive unit and to 100 tons carried. So there is another lie about the Transport Commission which has been proved false by the facts.
I think that the Tory Party ought to try to listen to those who know something about the transport industry. The only Member of the House on the other side who really understands transport is one who has publicly expressed complete condemnation of the White Paper policy of this Government, and yet the Tory Party take no notice whatsoever of this distinguished representative of the transport industry—no notice whatsoever.
And he is the only one, as my hon. Friend says, who knows anything about it.
I listened with complete astonishment to the remarks of the Minister about the integration of road haulage and rail. In 1931 the London and North-Eastern Railway announced that it had just completed its re-organisation following on the passing of the Railways Act, 1921. It took 10 years for the L.N.E.R. to re-organise. The L.N.E.R., large though it was, was a small undertaking compared with the vast, complex network of the Transport Commission.
The Road Services have been acquiring undertakings only for three years—approximately; and they have just completed the acquisition of most of the companies concerned. The Report itself says that
The way was prepared for many important steps in the process of integrating the different forms of transport.
In other words, the Commission themselves do not claim to have gone very far in the matter of integration, and yet the Minister is accusing them of not having taken very large steps towards integration.
I think the Government are in favour of disintegration, not integration at all.
I do not know what sort of transport men the right hon. Gentleman has been talking to, who do not believe that road transport and rail can be integrated. Those I talked to, those I knew in the service, and still know and still talk to, the people involved in road haulage and transport, believe it can be done. But for the Minister to pretend that in three years it was possible to have made any large contribution to the solution of the problem of integration of transport is simply to talk nonsense, especially when we look back to the time it took the L.N.E.R.10 years—to re-organise its concern after the passing of the 1921 Act. In fact, we are living in cloud-cuckoo-land on this question of public transport.
The Commission have managed to achieve some equilibrium in the matter of their finances this year. Why interfere with them? It is now evident to everyone who approaches the problem with anything like an impartial mind that the Transport Commission are to be a great success, and one of the things that the Tory Party at the moment fear most is that any form of socialistic experiment should be a success, and they are going to make sure that it is destroyed before it can be a success and prove to the world that British Socialism is not an example to be followed.
But it is only temporary. It is a sad interruption of the business of the Transport Commission, but it is a temporary one, and whether the present Government are in power for only six months or for two or three years, however long their miserable life is to run, one thing is certain, that there is no hallmark of permanency on anything that the present Government do about British transport.
The speech of the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) is rather similar to the one made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), in that he also made no claim whatever that any real progress had been made with integration between road and rail, which is one of the main features of the Motion the right hon. Gentleman moved.
The Report we are considering has been published at an extremely important moment in the history of British transport. Therefore, I read it with very great interest, as, I am sure, all other hon. Members in the House did; and, as I read it, I was more and more driven to certain perfectly clear conclusions, and those conclusions were, I am afraid I must say, diametrically opposite from the conclusions arrived at in the Motion put down by the Opposition. I cannot help feeling that the views expressed by hon. Members opposite show either that they are rather gullible, or else that they are wilfully blind in reading this Report.
I want to confine my remarks to the particular affairs of the Railway and Road Haulage Executives. As regards the former, it is perfectly clear that some useful progress has been made towards greater efficiency and towards financial solvency, and I am sure we are all very glad to see that, but the Transport Commission, quite rightly, points out that it has been held up to some extent by matters entirely outside its control. Nevertheless, it could have made accelerated progress if certain other matters had been put right, and it makes certain specific proposals. Those specific proposals are, first of all, that there is a need
… for a suitably revised organisation of their administration.
Secondly, there is need for the railways to be permitted
to adjust without undue delays the level of their charges.
Hon. Members will appreciate that I am quoting the exact words of Lord Hurcomb in the covering letter to this Report.
The Government are going to carry out both these recommendations of the Transport Commission. This will be a very considerable advance for the railways over the position in which they were operating under the previous Administration. The Transport Commission is to be asked to produce a plan for the re-organisation of its administration—particularly of the railways; and I sincerely hope that this proposed re-organisation of the railways will be submitted to the Minister some time next year. It is, I think, common knowledge that a certain amount of decentralisation in the railways has been needed for some time. This is generally recognised by a large number of people in the transport industry; and I believe that certainly some Socialist Ministers were hoping to take steps in that very same direction.
In what way does the hon. Member mean it is proposed to decentralise the railways—in contrast with the present set up in which we have regional officers having a large measure of autonomy; or going back to the pre-1947 position; or to the pre-1921 posi- tion? In what particular functions does the hon. Gentleman propose to decentralise?
I am not making any proposals how I should do it. What I am saying is that the Government are going to ask the Transport Commission to put forward its proposals how it thinks it ought to be re-organised, because, as the hon. Member, no doubt, knows from reading this Report, Lord Hurcomb specifically states that some re-organisation of the administration of the railways is urgently required. That was what I was drawing to the attention of hon. Members.
As regards charges, again the Minister proposes to give the rails greater latitude in increasing their charges, and he hopes, no doubt, by that to prevent the Railway Executive from making the very heavy losses which it made towards the end of 1949 and in the early part of 1950. The great importance of those losses which were made over that period is borne out in paragraph 29 of the Report. There the Commission states:
Indeed, the bulk of the present deficit itself occurred over a comparatively short period; as was shown on page 36 of the Third Annual Report, it was the later months of 1949 and, in particular, the first five months of 1950 (when the Commission were awaiting an approved but delayed increase in freight charges) that were damagingly out of balance.
That is what the Commission says about previous methods of adjusting charges, and it wants greater latitude. Again that is what Lord Hurcomb states in his letter covering this Report. I think that greater latitude will undoubtedly help to prevent the damage and losses which occurred over that period of the working of the Executive. Given those two major changes of policy, there is much in this Report to indicate that the railways can be made to pay and meet fair competition from the roads. Indeed, the Transport Commission states emphatically in paragraph 30:
… the view that the subsidy is the only possible remedy for the position is seen to be unwarranted.
I am sure we all agree with that, particularly after having read the Report.
It is true that there are certain burdens imposed on the railways which the Transport Commission regard as unfair. However, I was rather surprised that although these burdens include the maintenance of certain lines required for strategic purposes, the maintenance of a number of road bridges, the maintenance of level crossings and so on, the total figure at which the Transport Commission puts that burden is only between £1 million and £2 million, against a background of an annual turnover of £600 million. Therefore, I think there are good reasons for confidence in the financial future of our railways, quite apart from the savings which can be achieved by the quicker adjustment of charges and by the scheme of decentralisation.
I was not referring to legislation. I was saying that the Government propose to take certain action in conformity with the view set out by the Transport Commission, and I am quoting from the Report. I have said that, quite apart from the savings which this should bring about, and which the Transport Commission believes will be brought about, of its ordinary running it states in paragraph 87:
With regard to development, it can only be said that great potential economies are to be expected, in the operating of railways especially, if adequate capital and physical resources are forthcoming. The improvement in freight train speeds which ought to result from a general introduction of the fully-braked wagon would produce savings of millions of pounds a year; the modernising and re-siting of marshalling yards would substantially reduce costs; and an improved system of motive power would assist generally.
There are other paragraphs which show that the Railway Executive foresees considerable economies, and this gives every ground for thinking that the railways will be able to compete against the roads in the future and will be able to maintain their financial stability.
I now want to turn to the third matter on which certain conclusions can be drawn. This is in the sphere of the much publicised integration of roads and rail. Looking through this report, I think we shall all agree that the amount of integration has been ludicrously small. In paragraph 5 we find that pride of place is given to an account of how small consignments of goods now travel to London from Manchester in containers. But I cannot see anything in that paragraph which would lead me to believe that this service could not be carried on just as well without having a complete monopoly of all the long-distance road haulage in the country. It is no doubt a most admirable innovation, but it does not seem to me to prove that we must have a nationalised road haulage undertaking in order to carry out this economy.
Surely the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, where the road services are under one control, it is possible to collect small traffic and send it by rail from one centre to another, whereas the independent road operators had hundreds of their lorries going backwards and forwards over the roads. It was impossible, therefore, because they were competing with the railways rather than being complementary to them.
Yes, but it seems to me that if the railway is prepared to offer a service which brings small consignments from door to railway and puts them in a container and delivers them in Manchester, the consumer can chose for himself whether he sends them that way or by the ordinary road haulage route.
We are also told that there is a lot of thinking going on about the future of integration. I seriously suggest that it was up to hon. Members opposite to give a great deal of thought to integration before they passed the Act in 1947. It is odd that they should come along three years afterwards and say they are doing a lot of thinking on the matter.
Turning to Chapter 2, there is a rather long, rambling statement about the economics of road and rail, and on page 74, we find the following in paragraph 25:
The general conclusions, nevertheless, are reasonably clear In present circumstances the cost of rail transport is likely to be lower than the cost of road transport and vice versa, according to conditions as follows:—
Then follows a small table with the types of traffic more efficiently moved by rail and by road. Under the heading "Rail" we find that traffic is more efficiently carried by rail when there is direct rail access, that is, siding connection. It is more efficiently carried by road when there is "no easy access to rail." Then we find "Heavy bulk (Train load)" is better moved by rail, whereas "smaller bulk (up to lorry load)" is better moved by
road. Such considerations might well have been in all our minds before giving a great deal of thought to integration.
The truth of the matter is that during the four years since the Act was passed there has been no real progress in the integration of road and rail, and while the road services are showing some improvement, from extremely low level of efficiency, they are still not giving the personal service to customers which was previously expected. The Road Haulage Executive is aware that greater decentralisation is required. To ensure that personal service it is proposed in paragraph 100 on page 123 to split the country into geographical divisions with 50 districts, and it is said specifically:
The operational groups comprised in each District would be small enough to ensure the personal service which has always been so valuable a feature of road haulage …
I am giving the proof as set out in this Report which I am reading. I am saying that the Road Haulage Executive clearly states in the Report that it does not think the present set-up is satisfactory and it is proposing to break it down into smaller operating units. I do not for one moment suggest that I am an expert on transport. All I have done is to read the Report and to describe the conclusions reached by the Road Haulage Executive in one particular section.
The hon. Member made the statement that the public are getting a less personal service. It was that part of his remarks to which my hon. Friend addressed himself. Has the hon. Member any evidence from personal knowledge to support his statement?
—but it seems to me that if the Road Haulage Executive write in their Report that they must introduce certain reorganisations in the work of the Executive in order to provide a personal service, that means that they feel that the present personal service is not all that it might be. In the statement to which I have referred, there is a kind of veiled tribute to the very fine personal service which was provided by small road haulage operators in the past.
I cannot give way. That is a clear indication of the lines along which progress can be achieved. The sooner that road transport is returned to the small independent operators, the better for the consumer and for industry.
To sum up, I think it is quite clear that the railways can increase their efficiency and can successfully compete with the roads, provided they are allowed to reorganise their administration and are given the latitude in adjusting their charges which they require. I am very glad that the Government propose to give them both these things.
As regards road haulage, the advantages of integration, as shown in the Report, are conspicuous by their absence. The true profits of the Road Haulage Executive are either non-existent or, at the best, are so negligible that they provide no support whatever for the railways. The monopoly of the long distance road haulage has brought no benefits to the public and needs to be broken up.
"Integration" was a word that was used to mystify the millions. It has proved to be complete eyewash, and this clear conclusion would be drawn by any intelligent person who troubled to search beneath the veneer of propaganda which is contained in the Report.
It would not be an unfair criticism of the speech of the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) to say that when he was interrupted he failed to answer the questions which were put to him. Like his right hon. Friend who opened the debate, he made a lot of dogmatic statements about inefficiency and the impersonal nature of the service but did not produce a tittle of evidence. The proposals came not from the Road Haulage Executive, or from their Report or that of the Transport Commission, but were fabrications of the hon. Member and certainly of the Minister.
Throughout the speech of the right hon. Gentleman we heard, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) said, a whole string of platitudes without any supporting evidence whatever. Take, for example, the statement that in the new set-up there would be an opportunity for the railway companies to make so much money that they would be able to have their reserves and would have plenty of money to develop the industry and to repay all their standing charges.
I welcome the opportunity which is given to us today to talk about the proposals which are gathered up in the Bill and the White Paper, because this is an unexpected opportunity for us. The view on these benches, unlike that of the hon. Member and the Minister, is that the Government's proposals will do nothing to help the industry, but are economic sabotage as far as the country is concerned That is strong language, but no language less than that would describe the process.
Let me finish this shibboleth, then the hon. Member can have his shot. The industry, trade, commerce and prosperity of the country cannot be achieved unless we have a first-class, sound and properly integrated transport system. The proposals of the Government are the absolute negation of the good work which has already been begun, and only begun.
If the hon. Member had listened to Socialist propaganda for the last 25 years, he would recognise that as a typical piece of soap box oratory. All that he is putting over now are the Socialist shibboleths that they have enunciated since about 1910. He has not advanced a single good reason for stating that the proposals of the Government represent economic sabotage.
It is a courtesy of the House to defer to an interruption which is likely to be useful, but it is a gross discourtesy to use that privilege to put over the kind of eyewash that the hon. Member has just done. I have been on my feet precisely a minute and a half, and he asks me why I have not developed my whole argument. If I tell him that I have been in the industry in various capacities for 25 years, he will perhaps appreciate that it is not from soap box experience that I, with my colleagues, have some first-hand knowledge of the industry.
I speak today for the 600,000 men in the industry; not from the syndicalist point of view, but from a body of men who wish to see the country in a prosperous condition and playing its part in the world economy, and who believe that these reactionary proposals are putting the clock back.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), as an industrialist, knows a great deal about these problems. He tells us a great deal about what should be done in the electricity and fuel and power industries to step up production. But what is the use of our asking for increased production if we have an outmoded transport system which is breaking down for the lack of equipment and which has not properly served the public over many decades because it has not had the equipment or the capital, and where very often traffic is held up for weeks when it has to travel across the country before it can be shipped and exported abroad.
The hon. Member on the other side is making some sort of noisy zoological interruption. Probably he will have an opportunity to make his contribution later, but if he likes to challenge me I shall willingly give way to him.
When the hon. Member says that the railway system has been inefficient for decades, he is going a bit far. Until the beginning of the war, our transport industry led the world and we were recognised as the pioneers of development.
Perhaps I may reply briefly to the last interruption. I did not say that within the limits of the resources at their disposal the railways had been inefficient. What I said, and what I was about to develop, was that they had never had the modern capital equipment. They were not able to attract sufficient capital before the war, as the hon. Member knows, to modernise their system and to give the country and the public the service that they need if we are to have a prosperous and efficient transport system.
Although something has been done since the Commission began their work in 1947, a great job of work has been done in difficult circumstances. As the Report so clearly shows they have been handicapped by not having sufficient raw materials and money at their disposal. Any of us who has worked in the industry knows that many of our marshalling yards, terminal depots and equipment—as is clearly shown in the Report—locos, rollingstock and passenger vehicles for the accommodation of the travelling public—
—as my hon. Friend says, "lousy engines" are out-of-date. In these circumstances the railwaymen and railway managers have a difficult task to perform. It should be our endeavour—in whatever part of the House we sit, as there is no party issue in this—to develop our transport system, which is vital to the life of everyone in the country, at the earliest possible moment. We would have liked to see more progress in the provision of locos, wagons and vehicles and something done to help them get increasing supplies of steel and so on. But, as the Report says, in these matters the modest targets they set themselves in 1951 were not achieved by some 20 to 25 per cent. We have had reports from time to time that the running roads have not been considered safe for high speed traffic and considerable disadvantage has keen experienced as a result.
When the Transport Act was passed in 1947 it was assumed that this process of integration, whatever we may mean by that, should go on. [Laughter.] I willingly concede that various people have various ideas on what integration is. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) spoke of integration between each facet of the industry, each unit of the industry. The Minister spoke of what we generally understand as the welding together of the several units. Complaint is made that slight progress has been made in this respect.
I think anyone who reads the Report will see that when the railways were in considerable difficulty over the winter substantial relief was given by taking over much coal and other traffic of an urgent character and putting it on the road. I know that in the West of England traffic has been held up often because the junctions have been unable to accept traffic for weeks. And the same kind of thing has happened at the ports. It is possible, by the use of a second service, the road service, to relieve congested areas, and that is what we mean by integration.
As to the road passenger side, I agree with one hon. Member who said that slow progress had been made with the area passenger schemes. He suggested that because of that we ought perhaps to abolish such schemes as exist. That is not a satisfactory answer, and the complaint I have about my own Government and the socialisation of transport is that it has not gone far enough. We need more powers. There was too much circumlocution to get this desirable form of integration. I may be treading on the corns of some colleagues in the country, but that is the view I take and how I see the problem in relation to the national interest.
When we paid £998 million compensation for the railways, some in the industry and elsewhere thought we were over generous. They thought we were saddling ourselves with interest charges we could never meet, but, as we have heard, the industry broke even and had a slight profit last year. Given a reasonable chance, there is no reason why they should not better their financial position. If there is anything in the comment of the critics that we were over generous in paying compensation at 3 per cent. or 3½ per cent. on the £998 million on an agreement by which we proposed to integrate and take over road, water and other transport services, what will they say today when it is sought to break up the transport industry, leaving the railways in their erstwhile position of before the war when they were unfairly handicapped?
We are not here to make any special pleading, but the position is totally different if we separate the road from the railway side of the industry. I know that there are frivolous proposals to raise the levy on C licences, which would be opposed hip and thigh by supporters of hon. Members opposite. It is supposed to amortize the loss and to sell up by kind of Dutch auction. It is said that that would compensate the railways for the loss of traffic which would go to the roads.
I wonder what sort of practical transport men they are who look to a transport tribunal to decide why certain traffic is going on the road. The whole argument today has been that we must conserve this choice of service and that we must not dictate to the travelling or trading public. That means one of two things. It means that we are to have a part of transport which is unemployed because we are pandering to the whim and caprice of the public, or we are to have the service maintained for such conditions as will have to be met in an emergency or if the traffic were offered. But the trade may not be wanted at the time. We would have wasteful competition because of that—
If there is to be a choice it assumes a choice of two services. If the traders do not elect to use the second or third service, it is unemployed. That is a simple argument which calls for no quibble. We have no intention of destroying this choice of service, but the creation of endless C licences, running into thousands, is not at all economic. I am not objecting to the creation of C licences; none of my hon. Friends says that there ought to be an end to C licences.
The simple proposition we make is that there should be proof of need. Instead of duplicating the service over the country and over the same routes, there should be some reasonable proof of need. But the applicant today can get a C licence without any formality at all. As the Minister said, quite clearly it is not the small vans but the great vehicles with great carrying capacity which are on the road. They are making our roads unsafe. Some of them are taking traffic which should be on the railways or carried by other forms of transport.
I speak as a C licence operator. Is it not a fact that the enormous increase in C licences over the last five years—they have more than doubled—is a public manifestation of grave dissatisfaction with the whole abracadabra of nationalisation?
That is a fair point, and I do not complain of the hon. Member's intervention. But he will agree with me that during the war it was very difficult to replace vehicles and, naturally, apart from the change in the kind of set-up, each year we have seen the introduction of some new form of production or service which replaced old methods. There was a natural wastage in the first place and a natural development in the second place, but beyond that there was something of an extravagant nature which needs to be controlled in some way. I do not see that it needs to be completely exorcised.
This subject is close to my heart, and I could say much more, but I want to give my hon. Friends a chance of contributing to the debate from their own experiences. Before I sit down, I should like to ask what the Government are doing about the charges schemes under the 1947 Act. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the road hauliers could not be expected to become common carriers like the railway companies. The railway companies have to give equality of service to all and are bound by a system of charges. The new Bill gives the railways latitude to adjust their charges up to 10 per cent., subject to the approval of the Transport Tribunal, and that will he some relief, but we should not let the road haulage system get away with it while the railways remain saddled with outmoded conditions and charges. The charges schemes were supposed to be produced within two years of the passing of the Act but that period was extended.
Has anything been done to revise railway classifications? The railways are bound to charge on a basis of 21 classes of traffic, which is a completely outmoded system. Why cannot the railways be free to make their own charges, or why cannot the classes be reduced to five or six? If the railways are to compete with the roads, we should put the railways in a position to do so and should not require them meticulously to observe a system of charges which is completely outmoded.
If the financial structure was suspect in 1947, if we were too generous in giving £998 million at 3½ per cent. to shareholders, and if we are now going to take away the profitable sections so that the railways must fend for themselves, is it not time to remind ourselves of what the President of the Board of Trade used to say when he was upon these benches, that there should be an inquiry into the whole set-up of the transport industry? He used to dance about and thump these benches and draw our attention to the weaknesses of the Transport Commission and the road industry and say that before anything was done there should be a public inquiry. But there is going to be no public inquiry.
I can understand the right hon. Gentleman saying this afternoon that he would welcome any contributions from my hon. Friends; the Government do not know where they are going. I have no doubt about what the country will think of the Government and its transport proposals. I am reminded of the words of the nursery rhyme, "Leave them alone and they'll come home." But it will be "dragging their tails behind them" in this case.
The Government have pandered to their friends in destroying the industry and the good work which the Transport Commission has done. No doubt some weaknesses in the set-up call for revision, but we expected that from time to time. The Government's Act reflects not only the stupidity of the Conservative Party when dealing with this great problem, but also the ineptitude of the so-called businessmen of this country in dealing with the basic industries.
Without taking upon myself the mantle of a prophet, I can tell the Government that there will be trouble within the industry—I am no encourager of industrial strife; I believe in Parliamentary democracy and the processes of constitutional Government—if the men in the industry do not have a fair deal. The Government are playing with the lives of 600,000 railwaymen who have derived great advantages in terms of welfare and conditions of work and are firmly convinced that the development of the last few years is in the national interest.
If it can be demonstrated that, at the behest of the paymasters of the Tory Party, the system is to be thrown into a condition of anarchy, there will be great industrial strife. We shall place the responsibility for that where it rightly belongs, upon the shoulders of hon. Gentlemen opposite who are always willing to sacrifice the interests of the nation for a section.
If what the hon. Gentleman has been saying about the attitude of the men employed in the Commission's road haulage services is true, can he explain how it was that in 1951 there was a turnover of no less than 25 per cent. among the drivers and others employed in those services? In other words, 25 per cent. of the men left and an equivalent number had to be taken on to take their places.
I was not aware of the figure of 25 per cent., but I should imagine that the turnover in this industry is more rapid than in most industries. In any event, if it had been in the old days under a Tory Government the men would not have been quite so prepared to get out of the industry for they would have been afraid of not getting another job. On a recent Sunday morning some of my colleagues and I addressed some 500 men, most of whom came from the road haulage industry. I am speaking today on their instructions to me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly; I am proud to do so, because I believe their point of view is consonant with the public interest.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is a common and acknowledged fact in all parts of the country that when a vacancy in private enterprise transport is announced it is immediately over-subscribed some eight or 10 times by applications from servants of the British Road Services organisation?
I give the hon. Gentleman the credit of quoting from his own experience, but that is contrary to my experience. Organised workers with whom I have been in contact and who have written to me have expressed their appreciation of the better conditions which they have experienced under the new arrangements. The hon. Gentleman will recall the absolutely scurvy conditions under which many of the men were called upon to work and that we had to resort to Commissions, control of wages and so on in order to bring these men into line with other workers in the country. Many men were exploited and had to work 10 or 12 hours a day with insufficient rest or sleep. That was one of the basic factors which lead to control.
The hon. Gentleman should bring his thoughts into perspective. He talks of 22 years' knowledge of the industry. I have been in the industry longer than he has. It is very wrong of him to talk about scurvy conditions. I have worked at all levels in the industry, and I find his comments most unsuitable.
I would be the first to concede that there were some employers who were good. But I say also that there were instances where men were working under conditions which were a disgrace to the industry and from which they had to be rescued. If the hon. and gallant Member knows anything about the industry, he will know that I am not being unfair in what I am saying. All this was brought up in the Salter Commission Report which led to the Road Traffic Acts of 1930 and 1934, and all the rest of it. In those days men were 10 a penny. Employers could pick and choose and sack men when they pleased. They did not observe trade union conditions or the rules of the road, and the men had to be rescued from those conditions.
If the proposals of the Government mean the abolition of any kind of planning or control for any section of the industry, I say it will lead to complete anarchy. It will be the dissolution of the fine work which the Transport Commission have done over the limited period of their responsibility. How nonsensical and stupid it is to expect that after three or four years we should have a perfected machine and that everything would be accomplished. I know that under the 1921 Railway Act it took a decade to work out some of the small problems on the L.M.S.; and it may well take 10 years, or perhaps a generation, properly to integrate this great transport industry.
It is wrong for anyone to say that the work of the Commission should be condemned or that the job we gave them was too great for them to do. Why should we throw away all the experience of people like the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) who reminded the House of the facts in such forcible terms during our last debate? He spoke from practical experience, but there are some hon. Members opposite who never seem to learn. I hope therefore that all my hon. Friends will take this opportunity of proclaiming to the country that the responsibility for this diabolical Measure which is proposed rests on the Government—[Interruption.]
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies) in the tenor of his remarks. I wish to speak on some aspects of the Motion before the House,
The integration of road and rail traffic under common ownership
is the crux of the whole matter, and I was interested in the way the Minister put his finger on the point when he so rightly pointed out that the fourth annual Report and all the other Reports which have been produced are not "integrated." There are nearly a million people working in this industry and it is possible to hear of back-biting and statements about things that are going on in this huge organisation.
The point is that at present there should be one system, one authority, and under that authority an appropriate transport system should be used which will move goods in the most economical fashion. To make a big organisation work properly a great deal of decentralisation is neces- sary, not only on the administrative side but as regards responsibility as well. One of the things I do not like is that while in the scheme to be drawn up it is indicated that there should be decentralisation, it is not clearly indicated that the Government wishes to see the regional officers—who should become the general managers of the regions—accept some financial responsibility for the success of the trading in those regions.
I know that there are many difficulties about administration but I would press the Government to urge the Commission to consider this point so that the general managers of the regions may be told, "You have to run this region and produce a credit balance. You have to supply the transport system which the people in the area want. You can vary your charges over a great degree, so that by putting up the prices of unremunerative traffic you will tend to decrease it, and by lowering the prices of remunerative traffic you will attract more."
The fundamental weakness of this idea of integration may be traced to Parliamentary control. If decentralisation is decided upon in order to acquire efficiency, initiative and a sense of alertness in the lower stages of the organisation, that is not consistent with the requirements at the top, and for ability to be able to answer Questions put to Ministers about what, for example, was done by the station master at Little Bodmin last Friday, and to see that he does not do it again. In fact, the Transport Commission has riddled the whole organisation with this "looking over your shoulder" attitude. It is stagnating the initiative of the younger people in the industry.
That is the real problem. No one has discovered how Parliament is to control a big public monopoly and, at the same time, provide the freedom which allows real initiative among the people at the bottom. We take the view that there is no answer, and that therefore we should avoid public monopolies whenever possible. But if there is essentially a monopolistic feature then there is no answer to the problem and we have to accept it.
But in this case there is an answer. It is possible to have a large railway system complete with hotels and ports and other anciliaries, including an anciliary road feeder service. Instead of making that organisation closely answerable to Parliament we could put up against it a free independent road system spread all over the country and run by private enterprise. But the very fact of having that competition would mean that there would be a great deal less need for Parliament to worry about what the great public monopoly is doing. I do not suggest that Parliament should not annually review the matter, but the need for that review would not be as strong and Parliament need not worry about it anything like so much.
Will the hon. Gentleman take the argument a little further? Would he allow untrammelled growth of private transport all over the country while, at the same time, maintaining a strict limitation on the number of vehicles which would operate as ancillary to the railways? Is that what the hon. Gentleman means?
The road transport system ought to be completely free. It may be necessary to have some temporary delay after de-nationalisation, but a year or so later I consider that Part I of the Road and Rail Traffic Act of 1933 should be abolished. There should be no A, B or C licences. We should still continue to have a "certificate of fitness" as for passenger vehicles which would be issued only to people whose vehicles had been examined, there should be a fair wages clause and any safety regulations which Parliament thought fit to impose for the safety of the public and of the employees in the industry. But, after that, there would be no privileged private monopolies—
I think that we could allow the railways almost complete freedom. I do not think that it is practicable to say that they could vary their charges from top to bottom, but they could be given certain considerable scope within which they could vary their charges. It is, however, essential to maintain the transport tribunals so that people in isolated areas where there might not be effective competition could appeal if the railways wanted to put up prices unduly.
As the hon. Gentleman is expounding Liberal Party policy on transport, will he take this matter a little further? Does he say that there should be no licensing of any road transport vehicles and that anyone who wants to purchase and run a vehicle for the transport of goods will be entirely free to do so?
One must remember the sort of remark made by many people who have had A and B licences. The story was brought to my attention of a man who was asked whether he was in favour of the cancellation of A and B licences. He replied, "No, I am not in favour of that at all," and added that before they had a licensing system his firm tended to lose their best drivers who set up in business on their own.
Is it not perfectly reasonable that in this country a young, energetic driver should be allowed to go into the road transport industry if he wants to? Why should he be subjected by Parliament to the restriction that he cannot earn his living by being a good driver and supplying an efficient transport service of his own to the community?
I thought that I had said that. I said it about five minutes ago, possibly when the hon. Gentleman was asleep. I said that after the mechanism of denationalisation had been put into effect—after a year or two—then, from a date which ought to be specified in the Act, Part I of the Act of 1933 should be repealed. We should have competition on the roads.
I wish to comment on the various Executives. Fundamentally, a mistake was made when it was laid down that the Executives should be appointed by the Minister. What has happened is that the Executives have looked to the Minister and have pulled a long nose at the Transport Commission. That has not resulted in smooth working.
Another mistake is that these Executives are functional. They are experts who deal with special sections. Some administer certain sections of the railways. I am told that the result is that when they have meetings they work it very nicely. They have private meetings and not-so-private meetings. At the private meetings the minutes are called the "green" minutes. But when the part-timers come in and the meeting becomes more general the "white" minutes are submitted to the Commission, and the secret ones are called the "green" minutes. These personnel back up their own departments. There is no discussion such as that at a meeting of a board of directors. They are all interested in getting approval of their own ideas for their own departments, and, of course, they do not question each other.
Finally, I should like to draw attention to the position of London Transport. I can see no reason why London Transport should continue to be under the Transport Commission. It will be best put back as a statutory body on its own answerable to Parliament. Let it stand on its own feet. There will always be argument about whether London is standing too much of the central charges or too little. I suggest that great advantage would be obtained by the Transport Commission and London Transport if the two were separated and the latter became a statutory body.
I am not clear whether the House is debating the Report of the Transport Commission for last year, the White Paper put forward by Her Majesty's Government or, more recently, the rather audacious plan for transport sponsored by the Liberal Party. I have listened with rapt attention to all the speeches made from both sides of the House. I have enjoyed, as I always do, the contributions of those hon. Gentlemen opposite who are, or have been throughout their lives, intimately associated with the transport industry.
There are one or two matters on which I wish to cross swords with hon. Gentlemen opposite. The sense of their case, as I understand it, is that the Transport Commission, especially during the last year or 18 months, have in some way or other developed into a paragon of commercial virtue. They say that the efficiency of the Commission has improved and that there has been a good deal of what is known as integration—something that nobody on the benches opposite or, for that matter, on this side, has attempted to define satisfactorily. Although it has not been said in this debate today, it has been widely said outside by hon. Gentlemen opposite that, for the first time, the British Transport Commission have succeeded in making a not inconsiderable operating surplus on their working for 1951.
I can quite understand that not only hon. Members opposite, but hon. Members on this side of the House as well, are in the position of having to make some slight adjustments in their attitude both to the British Transport Commission and the transport industry itself, and, of course, it has been remarked, both in this debate and in its forerunner a month or two ago, that this side of the House is no longer pre-occupied with protecting the interests of the British taxpayer. It is said that we are quite prepared to throw the interests of the taxpayer to the four winds of heaven, and that the party opposite has suddenly become the guardian angel of the men and women in this country who pay taxes.
It was pointed out by the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) earlier in the debate that our only interest was to satisfy those mysterious and rather corrupt influences in the background. Yesterday, it was the brewers; the day before, it was the builders; and today, it is the Road Haulage Association.
It is because I do want to get rid of these doubts that I propose to say what I am going say.
I want to make it plain straight away that there is one very simple defect in the arguments adduced by hon. Members opposite this afternoon. The gravamen of their complaint against my right hon. Friend—and I listened very carefully to what he said and to what was said by hon. Members opposite—is that no evidence has been put forward to show that the Road Haulage Executive in particular is, as my right hon. Friend indeed alleged, an inefficient organisation. The hon. Member for Kensington, North said that not a tittle of evidence had been put forward by my right hon. Friend in support of that contention.
I should like, if I may, to deal with that particular point, which is an important one, on the financial basis, and I want to try to be perfectly fair to hon. Members opposite. The House will remember that, following the 1947 Act, over 1,000 road haulage undertakings in this country were acquired by the British Transport Commission and, in addition to paying for the vehicles, the Commission also paid a figure for goodwill. This is in the Report which we are discussing tonight, and the figure is £33 million.
The greater part of that figure was based on compensation for cessation of business, and it was calculated on a basis of from two to five years' profits of the undertakings that were taken over. It is fair to assume—indeed, it is more than fair—that the number of years' profits taken might have been, on the average, shall we say, four years. In that event, one deduces that the profits of the acquired undertakings were of the order of approximately £8 million a year.
What has happened since? British Road Services—and these figures are in the Report, and are not in dispute—made a gross operating surplus in 1949—the first really full year—of nearly £1½ million, in the second year a loss of over £1 million, and, last year, an operating surplus of about £.3¼ million. In other words, over the three years, a gross surplus of just over £3½ million, or a yearly average of £1,100,000. That is in contrast with the profits of the acquired undertakings of £8 million year by year for the years preceding 1947, which I submit to the House means that, certainly from the point of view of profitability, the acquired undertakings were seven times more profitable than since they have been acquired by the British Transport Commission.
Let me put it in another way, which I think will emphasise the point I am making. The British Transport Commission paid, on the average, for the vehicles they took over, £2,000 in compensation for the vehicles themselves and the goodwill, and, if hon. Members opposite care to work out, as I have done, what the surplus per annum has been, on each of these vehicles during the last three years, the surplus per vehicle, before we take into account central charges, is £31.
What a business achievement! What audacity on the part of hon. Members opposite, in face of these figures, to come to the House and play down the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend that British Road Services is not an efficient organisation.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. It is very refreshing to listen to him, after some of the speeches we have heard, and, in particular, that from the Liberal Party. What I want to ask him is this. He points out to us very clearly what has been achieved in the last three years regarding profits on the basis of what was paid for the business. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wittingly mislead the House in this connection, because he knows full well, or should know, that most of the fixed assets, most of the lorries, bought by the British Transport Commission have been completely renewed and replaced during the last three years. Very few have been simply renovated, but most have been completely replaced. Secondly, will the hon. Gentleman address himself to that part of the Amendment to the Motion which contains the phrase—
seriously impeded the interchange of goods.
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what he thinks about that in conjunction with the financial situation?
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to pursue my speech in my own way, I shall try to answer his second point in a moment or two. As regards his first question, I am far from accepting it as a fact that all the vehicles acquired by the British Transport Commission have been completely renewed or substituted. After all, the process of maintenance is continuous, and I should be the last man to believe that private enterprise or the British Transport Commission was incapable of doing that. Therefore, I do not think that there is a great deal in the hon. Gentleman's interjection.
I should like to underline what I have been saying. From a financial standpoint, the profits earned by the private firms before they were acquired by the Commission were seven times the level of the post-1947 profits earned by the British Transport Commission. If that were the case, and if that were the end of the story, perhaps it would not be too bad, but that, indeed, is only the beginning of the story.
I realise perfectly well that there are some hon. Members opposite who are perhaps a little sensitive when they hear allusions to interest or central charges, but the House ought to be reminded in a debate of this sort that, when central charges are taken into account, the figures for the last three years' working of British Road Services show a loss of almost £4 million.
Moreover, it does not even end there, because, since the British Transport Commission has been running these acquired undertakings, as far as I can understand from the Report now in our possession, not a single penny has been paid by taxation on the earnings of British Road Services, whereas the whole House knows that, for years and years before the acquisition of the undertakings, an annual figure by way of Income Tax and Profits Tax of at least £4 million was contributed by private firms in this country. I wonder if hon. Members opposite ever pause to consider what the state of the national budget and what the maintenance of our social services would be if the private sector of our economy housed as many white elephants as the British Transport Commission.
I do not want to make a long speech, but there is one further point which I think needs to be made. The right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) took great pride this afternoon in the improved condition of vehicles, depots, and all the rest of the paraphernalia of British Road Services. I remember very vividly the references made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who now sits on the Front Bench opposite, in the previous debate, in which both he and the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said that not only was the condition of the vehicles, the depots, and all the rest of it much better than it used to be, but that the vehicles were better maintained, and that the safety of pedestrians and motorists on the road was greater than in the bad old days when the gentlemen who are supposed to be prompting myself and my hon. Friends tonight had free play on the roads.
Before I conclude, I would point out that when the British Transport Commission came into existence in 1946–47 they arranged certain insurance cover which was principally, although not exclusively, for vehicles run by British Road Services. But the accident record of British Road Services has been such that during the last few days the insurers have increased the rate of charge by 100 per cent. That, I think, is a far better answer to the accusations made against private enterprise than any vague or woolly statements made either in this debate or in the last one.
Would the hon. Gentleman mind telling us a little more about this? Is he saying that the insurers have increased the rate charged to the Road Haulage Executive, but have left other road hauliers at the old rate, and that this has happened within the last few days?
It has happened in the last few days and has been widely reported in the Press, especially in the financial Press. Of course, it has nothing whatever to do with the rates charged to private hauliers or to other people. This is a single insurance contract which is considered entirely on its merits and on the basis of experience.
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. We certainly saw these reports and saw the deduction which the hon. Member has now drawn being made by one of his colleagues at an earlier date. Will he now tell us what was the reply made by the public relations officer of the Road Haulage Executive to this allegation in which he denied that it had any relation to the accident rate?
So much is said by the public relations officer of the Road Haulage Executive that one cannot keep track of all he does say. But what I would say, having had some small connection with the insurance business years ago, is that when a contract of this sort is negotiated, whether rates go up or down depends almost exclusively on the number of claims made.
Does it not also depend on the risks insured against, on the number of vehicles insured and on a whole number of other factors, and is not the plain truth that the Road Haulage Executive have themselves altered the terms of the insurance because they are covering their vehicles in a different way? Why does not the hon. Gentleman be honest about it?
The hon. Gentleman is really clutching at straws. I am perfectly willing to have a chat with him at the end of this debate, but I do not want to weary the House with details. Obviously, the hon Gentleman knows even better than I that the increase in the number of vehicles during the last year or two has been relatively small, and I think I am right in saying that there has been no important change in the nature of the cover sought by the British Road Services. That is all by the way, but I think it tends to illustrate that the statements made by various hon. Members opposite and by the hon. Gentleman himself in the course of this and the previous debate were rather off the mark.
I will conclude by making this one straightforward observation. For many years past I have taken a very close interest in the transport problem. It is perfectly true that I have not been engaged in the industry in peace-time, but I was privileged to serve in His Majesty's Forces during the last war when I gained some idea of transport working both in this country and overseas. I am perfectly convinced that the proposals embodied in the White Paper produced by Her Majesty's Government are in the interests of the economic future and welfare of this country.
In intervening in this debate I do not propose to follow hon. Members who have dealt fairly exclusively with the road haulage part of our national transport, but will endeavour to deal exclusively with the passenger transport services as outlined in the fourth annual Report of the British Transport Commission which we are supposed to be discussing this afternoon.
Since the inception of the 1947 Transport Act, private and public discussions have centred in Section 63 of that Act which relates to the preparation of the whole area of road passenger transport schemes. This Section authorises the Transport Commission to submit to the Minister of Transport a scheme for co-ordinating the passenger transport services and for the provision of adequate, suitable and efficient passenger road trans- port services in any area. Furthermore, the Commision are instructed to review as soon as possible the passenger road transport services in Great Britain with a view to determining the areas for which such schemes are to be submitted.
I am going to confine my remarks to an area I know particularly well in the West of Scotland, taking the City of Glasgow as a pivotal point. Within a radius of 20 miles of the City of Glasgow, an area which includes more than one-third of the population of Scotland, there are a number of competing forms of transport. First, there is the Glasgow Corporation Municipal Transport Department which—and this is probably unknown to many hon. Members—is the largest municipal transport undertaking in the world. I had the honour to be Chairman of that Committee for many years.
That Department operates 1,138 tram cars, 838 motor buses, 65 trolley buses and 50 subway cars. The following figures indicate the importance of this undertaking: capital expenditure £12,458,000, annual revenue £5,700,000, passenger vehicle miles run per annum 62 million, passengers carried per annum 804 million, number of vehicles operated 2,000.
A second competing transport undertaking in that area is the S.M.T. bus services, and, thirdly, the British Transport Commission operate surburban railway services. The overlapping that takes place owing to these competing forms of transport has created a state of chaos over the whole of the West of Scotland. I would draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport and hon. Members on both sides of the House to page 3 of the Report which is now before us where, with reference to Glasgow Passenger Transport it is stated:
The Committee, under the Chairmanship of Sir Robert Inglis, completed their survey and their Report was published in October. The Report recommends the integration of road and rail services in the area and equalisation of the fares charged by the different systems. It also recommends the electrification of the railway suburban lines and proposes that Buchanan Street and Queen Street (High Level) stations should be amalgamated on the site of the former to serve as a new terminus on the north side of the city.
The Commission feel that an important contribution to the solution of the Glasgow transport problem has been made by the Committee and they have invited the comments and
suggestions of the Glasgow Corporation and all other authorities interested in transport and town planning. Before such a costly scheme could be adopted, the closest examination of all its aspects is required, particularly in view of the present restrictions on capital investment.
I appeal to the Minister of Transport and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to consider the setting up of one or two regional transport boards for Scotland, similar to the regional boards set up to operate the National Health Service. In that Service four regional hospital boards were set up—one for the west of Scotland, the second for the east of Scotland, the third for Aberdeen and district, and the fourth for Inverness and district.
The Inglis Report, to which reference is made in the annual report of the Commission, recommends strongly the integration of all road and rail services in this area and the equalisation of fares. I suggest further the consideration of electrification of the suburban railway services in this area now being operated by the Transport Commission. I also suggest the extension of the Glasgow Corporation Subway.
That subway was constructed 60 years ago. It is the only subway in this country outside London. It is the only subway in the world which has shown a profit during the last 10 years. There was a small deficit last year but prior to that, from the time when the Labour administration in the Glasgow Corporation electrified the system, it was the only subway in the world which was showing a profit.
When it was constructed the population of the city was only one-half what it is today. With the extension of the city boundaries the subway is now totally inadequate to meet present requirements. I suggest that it should be extended to tap some of the most densely populated districts round the city, such as Shettleston, Springburn, Maryhill, Scotstoun, Mosspark, Pollok—and I am sure I have here the support of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith)—Rutherglen, and Cambuslang.
Such an extended subway, linked with electrified suburban services, would cut out much wasteful competition and would effect tremendous economies which could be used to reduce fare charges. Such a grandiose scheme could only be launched if grants were available from the Exchequer. But I would remind the Minister that the Glasgow Corporation has been one of the largest contributors to Exchequer funds for many years. The average sum paid as licence charges on their bus fleet works out at £72,000 per annum, and out of such large payments Glasgow has never received one penny piece in return.
I submit that those facts should be borne in mind when this Report of the Transport Commission is being considered. When Lord Hurcomb was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport he read a paper entitled "The Growth of Passenger Traffic in Great Britain and Some Features of its Regulation" at a meeting of the Municipal Passenger Transport Associations' annual conference as far back as June, 1933.
This paper is well worth studying in relation to the present position of the municipalities and I cannot do better than conclude by quoting the last paragraph of his Report:
What is to be the relation between the great municipalities and the railway companies serving their areas? What are the conditions and what are likely to be the results of electrification of suburban railway services in our more thickly populated industrial districts?
What is to be the relation between the municipal services and those of private operators in the same neighbourhood? Are existing agreements and modes of co-operation capable of development and application elsewhere? Are new and more comprehensive schemes of co-ordination practicable and desirable?
Such questions as these will provide ample subjects of discussion at annual meetings, ample food for thought as we sit in our industrial offices and, no doubt, in due course a fruitful sphere of action, since in the development of its administration transport cannot stand still.
I have endeavoured, though very imperfectly, to urge the unification of the transport services in the West of Scotland. If the Minister will do me the honour of at least considering these suggestions, then my intervention in this debate will not have been in vain.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. W. Reid) will regard it as an unwarranted impertinence for a representative of a mere English constituency to enter into the interesting topics relating to the passenger transport arrangements in the City of Glasgow. Accordingly, I propose to refrain from doing so, except to make one comment. I observed that the hon. Gentleman did not tell the House what would be the effect upon passenger fares in Glasgow of the implementation of the Inglis Report.
I myself am always a little doubtful about the merits of these schemes for equalising fares. Our experience of fare equalisation in London has been that those fares which were formerly cheap have become more expensive, and those fares which were always high are no lower. I suspect that one of the consequences of the equalisation of fares in the City of Glasgow might very well be to produce the same result.
There have been one or two expressions which have echoed through this debate, as, indeed, they echo through all our debates upon this subject. Hon. Members opposite appear to be obsessed with the magic of the expression "integration." In the debate on the White Paper three months ago I noticed that they could not resist the temptation to develop the advantages of what was then called "co-ordination." In that debate the expression "co-ordination" was used by hon. Members opposite about 30 times. "Integration" was not so popular then. It was used upon no more than 17 or 18 occasions.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will only study the many Reports of Commissions established over the years, he will find that those words have been mentioned many more times than the number which he has suggested.
I can assure the hon. Member that I am very conscious indeed of the mischief which has been done by the fascination over the minds of persons in the transport industry and, I fear, outside it, too, of these two meaningless expressions. I am not sure that the Commission themselves have not added to the number of these magic phrases.
In the introduction to their Report, which is signed by Lord Hurcomb, to whom my right hon. Friend has paid such a handsome tribute—although I am bound to say that if Lord Hurcomb's views are really expressed in the introduction to the Report I would have thought that he ought no longer to be Chairman of the Transport Commission—the Commission say that what they are seeking to do is to "achieve equilibrium." I am not at all clear what is really the implication of that expression. But, there again, I suspect that one of the consequences of "achieving equilibrium" will be that that which was once cheap will become expensive and that which is now expensive will certainly not become cheaper. I am sorry that the Commission have apparently fallen victims to this habit of thinking in phrases, which is not only misleading in this House but in the country, too, on this important subject of transport.
The question which the House has to consider tonight is whether this system of what has been called "integration" will give the country a system of transport which trade and industry require. I emphasise "a system which trade and industry require." Transport costs, as the House knows, are an essential factor in the costs of industrial production. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) to read flattering passages from "Transport Management." These are the views of the transport experts. The right hon. Gentleman did not read to the House the views of the traders who had got to use the transport services. I submit that it is the views of the traders themselves which have really got to determine in the end what should be the character of the transport system which we set up in this country.
Today, when the need to reduce the cost of industrial production is more necessary than it has ever been before if we are to achieve a balance in our overseas payments, the nation just cannot afford a transport system which is expensive or extravagant. We have got to find some way of keeping transport costs down. Cheapness, I submit, is the first—I will not say the only essential, but a vitally important factor—
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that the proposals of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the disintegration of transport and the levy to be applied to C licence holders will make transport any cheaper?
I think that is one of the great merits of the scheme which my right hon. Friend is going to propose. What I have said about the cheapness of the carriage of merchandise applies with equal force to the carriage of passengers. In London, travelling costs are an important factor in the costs of industrial production.
Hon. Members opposite have said that the Transport Commission is a new undertaking which has yet to prove itself. That is true. It is only four years old and we are told that we ought to give it an opportunity to grow up. But we can judge the results of the system of integration which the Transport Commission are at present intent on carrying out. We can judge the results of what they propose to do by the results which have been achieved by the London Transport Executive and by their predecessor, the London Passenger Transport Board.
As I understand, the Transport Commission aim at introducing into national transport precisely those conditions which the London Passenger Transport Board was created to introduce into the London passenger transport service. The Transport Commission aims at bringing about precisely the same results by the same methods.
First, there is common ownership. All the existing separate undertakings are to be brought together and merged into a common whole. Then there is to be the equalisation of charges over a wide area. The London Transport Executive is not an organisation that has yet to prove itself; it is an established undertaking, now more than 18 years old. By its results the consequences of this form of integration can be fairly judged.
Precisely the same advantages which were claimed for the London Passenger Transport Board when it was brought into existence in 1933, and in the debates which took place in the House on the earlier Bill of 1931, are claimed today for the system which the Transport Commission are endeavouring to introduce.
I should like to read a passage from the introduction to the Commission's Report which echoes with a striking resemblance the arguments which were
advanced in 1931 and 1933 when the London Transport Executive was being introduced. The Chairman of the Commissioners reports:
In 1951 the programme of acquisition of long distance haulage undertakings, in accordance with the terms of the Transport Act, 1947, was virtually completed, and the way was prepared for many important steps in the process of integrating"—
we have that word again—
the different forms of transport, from which large economies would eventually result.
There is something singularly reminiscent about that particular passage. We are entitled to examine the achievements of the London Transport Executive to see how far they have fulfilled the promises which were made on their behalf by their advocates in the Socialist Party 20 years ago.
What has happened? In the first six years of its existence—which, after all, were years of peace, when the undertaking was not handicapped by the legacy of difficult conditions following a war—the result of integration was that the cost of transport in London was substantially the same as it had been in the days of the separate undertakings. In so far as there was any change it was upwards and not downwards. From Table 7 of the Report one sees that the increase in London fares between 1939 and 1951 was 43 per cent., compared with a higher percentage for undertakings outside London.
The difference was attributable very largely not to the fact that the London Transport Executive had succeeded in keeping down the cost of travel; it was due to the fact that on many routes in London the fares were still exceptionally low, for certain historical reasons. On other routes they were exceptionally high. In 1951 the average increase in fares in London was less than the increase in other parts of the country, but it would be wrong to draw from that fact the inference that the London Transport Executive had succeeded in absorbing a greater proportion of their operating costs than undertakings outside London had done.
What have been the consequences of integration in the London Passenger Transport Board? Today the travelling population of London is in open and undisguised revolt against the charges of the London Passenger Transport Board. No Member who sits for a London division can doubt that. That is one of the consequences of integration.
The hon. Member says that the Minister says we have not had it. The Minister is seeking to prevent the same process overtaking the national transport system that has brought us to our present pass in London transport. That is the whole point of the observation which I am making.
What happened in London? The first step taken was to "co-ordinate" or "integrate" all the separate undertakings which had functioned in different parts of London before the Transport Board was formed. In those days there was a rival scheme which, I think, was sponsored by the London County Council, which had, perhaps, a better insight into such matters then than it has now. The rival scheme proposed that the separate undertakings should be retained as separate entities and that a body should be set up and given the task of co-ordinating the working of those separate undertakings.
What would have happened if that had been done? The tramway undertakings carried their passengers more cheaply than the Transport Board has ever been able to do. Croydon was one—and my own borough of Ilford was another—whose undertakings carried their passengers more cheaply than the Transport Board ever have done. They paid the same rates as the transport, undertaking. One of the reasons for their being cheaper was that they had control of their own supplies of electricity. They were their own generators and their own suppliers. That is the sort of integration that transport in London has always required. It is not integration with other forms of transport alone but integration with the local authorities and the various services which those authorities used to command.
In the provinces this is not so. In the great provincial cities the control which the local authorities exercised over their passenger undertakings was a powerful instrument in planning the development of their cities. But that never had been possible in London. The London Transport Executive pursues its own sweet way in one direction and the local authorities pursue their own way in another direction.
It is the destruction of those separate and independent undertakings which, in my judgment, has produced this outstanding problem of the cost of passenger transport in Central London. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that the Transport Executive is to continue, although not in the same form, or not perhaps with the same name. I do not much mind by which name it is known. I know the name which is commonly used for it by many of its passengers, but I would not recommend my right hon. Friend to adopt that.
Let me conclude with this observation. I think my right hon. Friend will have a very difficult task in reducing the cost of passenger transport in London. I say that for this reason. As I see it, the consequences of the policy of the Transport Executive and its predecessor has been to create in London a system of transport which is not capable of being worked cheaply. Their policy, over 20 years, has involved the extension of the tube railways, the conversion of the tube railways into suburban railways, for which they were never really designed; and the running of long-distance bus services from distant terminal points on one side of London to distant terminal points on the other side, passing through the most congested streets in the centre, which has produced a multitude of omnibuses in the Strand. Oxford Street and Regent Street during the off-rush hours with 10 or 12 or 20 passengers in a 56-seater bus.
I say that the system which has been created by this integration or co-ordination of London transport is a system which my right hon. Friend will find it extremely difficult to work cheaply. He embarks upon his task with my best wishes. Whatever I can do to assist him in this difficult job, I will do, but I warn him that it will be difficult to turn the clock back again and to get rid of the consequences of integration in London's transport.
I hope that will be a warning to hon. Members opposite not to be so unwise as to introduce into our national haulage system or our national passenger transport system precisely those conditions which have fastened an expensive and extravagant transport system on the necks of the unfortunate London population.
There are very few comments which I desire to make on the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Ilford, North (Sir G. Hutchinson). I got the impression from what he said, rightly or wrongly, that he would prefer that Londoners should go back to the very old days when private enterprise held sway in London.
All I can say is that if he put that to the test of the people of London, he would get exactly the same answer as his party recently got in the London County Council elections. I am not unfamiliar with the hon. and learned Gentleman's record on the L.C.C., and I imagine that the sort of notions he has been putting before the House are probably the same as those which he advocated in the recent L.C.C. elections.
If that be the case, all I can say is that, just as the people of London so effectively gave the Tories the answer in the last L.C.C. elections, so the present Government will find, when they put their transport proposals to the people of this country, that what Dundee did last week will be repeated over and over again in constituencies up and down the country.
I should be going a little wide of the debate if I started to enter that discussion, although I hope to say something about it a little later. Whatever either side of the House may disagree about in the debate, we would probably all agree that this fourth annual Report of the British Transport Commission is an exceedingly creditable document. First of all, I think the Commission are entitled to congratulations for having produced such a document, full of information—a perfectly readable document; and I think the Minister did at least pay compliments to the Commission for that, and those were about his only compliments.
I will analyse a little later other aspects of what the Minister said, but at least we are on common ground when I say that he paid compliments to the Transport Commission for the production of this Report and for the way the job had been done. I take the view that what is recorded in this Report does the Commission amazing credit. It is very easy for hon. Members opposite, like the hon. and learned Member for Ilford, North, to try to make play with words like integration and co-ordination. But hon. Members can play about with words like that.
Anybody who speaks with knowledge of transport, I do not care whether he sits on this side of the House or that, must at least recognise that almost every commission and committee of inquiry which has inquired into the Transport problem of this country, has always, by and large, reached this conclusion—that there ought to be the utmost integration of all forms of transport in order that the users of transport should have the most efficient transport service at their disposal. Recognising the economic situation of the country, if there is one thing, I should have thought, that any Government would be seriously concerned about, it is to see that the capital sums invested in the railways and in road transport are used to the utmost possible advantage. If this nation is to have a sensible transport policy, that certainly must be its basic consideration.
One of the features of this Report—and I am astonished that hon. Members opposite seem to make light of it—is that it refers, in road haulage, to the fact that since the Transport Commission came into being, the Road Haulage Executive have been responsible for bringing within their orbit no less than 3,760 separate undertakings. Anybody on either side of the House who has any business experience at all, and who leaves his political prejudices aside for a moment, must recognise that to bring 3,760 organisations into one entity is a tremendous task. All that I can say to anybody who wants to dispute that is that if he would have a word with any of the directors of Unilever, or any of the big organisations, and ask for their views on that aspect of the matter, I am certain he would find that they would agree with me. It is a terrific job to bring together thousands of separate organisations such as those.
I shall come to that in a moment. Not only do I think it is worth it, but I think that if we are to make full use of the capital assets in road and in rail, as this nation must in its present circumstances, that is the only way we can do it, because unless we do weld these organisations together, to bring them to a high degree of efficient service, we shall not have the service. Nothing less than that seems to me to be practicable.
The hon. Gentleman is talking almost entirely of the interests of the organisation itself, and advocating a comprehensive design which pleases the organisation as the producing or purveying organisation of transport, without a word as to whether this grand design is in the interests of the consumer.
Quite obviously, I should have expected the noble Lord to have taken that much for granted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Quite obviously, it only fulfils its function to the degree that it is giving efficient service to the users of transport. That is the object, and my contention is that only by unifying all these multifarious organisations will it be possible to achieve a high degree of service for the users of transport.
What I would say is this—and I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), the late Minister, referred to it—that anybody today who sees the Road Haulage Executive's vehicles up and down the country must be struck by one of two things. I think that the ordinary person amongst the general public is struck first of all by the high degree of the quality of the vehicles. It used to be my job at one time in my life to go up and down the roads from one end of Britain to another.
I look back to the 'thirties and recall the sort of conditions in which road vehicles were then, and the sort of conditions under which long distance road haulage drivers were working, and the enormous number of prosecutions there were because road haulage employers were not observing the elementary conditions which Parliament had laid down. I contrast all that with the degree of efficiency and with the standard of the vehicles of today, and the relatively better conditions under which the employees are working today. I believe that any impartial person making that contrast would have to recognise that the change that there has been is for good.
The amazing thing to me is that after three short years, when the Road Haulage Executive has just got the thing into something like real shape, and when at last it has been made a profitable enterprise, along comes the party opposite—and what do they propose to do? To smash this machine up and sell it out to their friends. I want to warn them—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite will find that this is no laughing matter as the years go on—that it is very far from being a laughing matter. The hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) said—quite rightly—when the House last debated this matter that he had not spoken to one single person in the transport industry who had had a good word to say for the Government's White Paper proposals.
Not one good word. It has gone much beyond that now, and anybody who speaks with knowledge of transport today knows that there are two words being used in the road transport industry. I want the Minister to remember this. The two words now that have gained common currency in the long distance road haulage industry are "the racket." The present Government's proposals in regard to long distance haulage are talked about as being "The racket." [Interruption.] The hon. and Gallant Gentleman will be more than astonished.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says we ought to stop it. My suggestion to him is that he accepts the advice of the hon. Member for Abingdon. There are enough people on the back benches opposite to influence the Minister and the Government. They can stop it; and they ought to stop it, if they have any regard to the public interest, before the House comes back in October.
The Minister today was talking quite a lot not so much about the Transport Commission's Annual Report as about the present Government's proposals. I think that the most important thing about these proposals is the thing that he avoided saying one word about. The notion seems to be that the Government are intending to sell out this magnificent fleet of the Road Haulage Executive by auction in what they call "units"—
Let us have a look at the picture. Parliament decides to set up this Transport Commission. The Road Haulage Executive becomes part of its machinery. In this process these 3,760 undertakings are taken over. In the process of taking them over huge sums of public money are paid for the goodwill of those undertakings—
Having taken £10 million of public money which the Transport Commission has paid for the goodwill of those businesses, the present Government are now proposing to knock them down at scrap prices.
The term "current value" is not used in the White Paper. I do not want to provoke unnecessary argument about the details of what is to be done, but what the Government are proposing to do—and this cannot be denied—is to sell out these road transport vehicles in what they call operable units by auction, and the Government themselves—not my party; not the people on these benches—the Government themselves estimate, if I follow their proposals at all, that in the process of doing this, £10 million or £20 million of public money will have gone down the drain.
What a lovely proposition this really is, if one looks at it dispassionately. This is where the term "racket" appears to come in. The Road Haulage Executive buys these vehicles at millions of pounds for the goodwill, and after the job has just been done, the Tory Party come in and say, "Sell these back to the boys." Is not that it? "Sell these back to the boys, and never mind if you have given them £10 million or £20 million already for the good will. Sell them back now at knock-out prices." That, in effect, is what it comes to. If those are the Government's proposals, put them to the test in the country and they will find that they will get the Dundee results again, and again, and again.
I confess that I have not seen the Gallup poll results in the "News Chronicle" In any case, I am not much concerned about Gallup polls. I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that if he wants to talk about the "News Chronicle" he might equally well read the very useful series of articles on the Transport Commission which the "News Chronicle" are publishing, in which he will find quite a lot of very useful information.
The Minister said not one word about this sum of money which it is estimated will be lost.
The fact that the hon. Gentleman is so surprised that discussion of the Bill is in order is no reason why the Bill should be grossly misquoted. There is no such proposal whatever to do anything in that form. The provision, as the hon. Gentleman I think knows, is for the levy to bear the loss. The loss is not being borne by the general taxpayer.
All I can say is that certainly the Government White Paper did not make any propositions such as that clear at all. Certainly there was reference to the levy, but there has been no suggestion that what comes from the levy will equate this loss of £10 million or £20 million. I want to be quite fair to the Minister. After all, he is relatively new in his office and we are all very pleased and willing to hear what he says, but not once, either in the last debate or in the debate today, has any such contention been put forward.
I developed the theme at great length in the debate on the White Paper, and today I said that the levy had two purposes. The first purpose, I said, was not seriously challenged by many people now, and that was to bear any loss incurred on the sale through the loss of goodwill. Then I went on to deal with the second purpose. If the hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD tomorrow he will find it all there.
I have the impression, rightly or wrongly—we shall come back to all this, of course, when the House meets again—that this levy idea was to make up the loss which the Transport Commission might experience from the loss of revenue coming from the road haulage undertaking. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, we shall see. We shall have lots of time to argue this out as the days go by.
Now I want to come to one other aspect of the matter which seems to me to need some further statement. In the criticisms of the Road Haulage Executive we have had today what we had from the Prime Minister in the previous debate, namely, a wild assumption—and I choose the words deliberately—about the huge number of administrative workers carried by the Road Haulage Executive in con- tradistinction to private enterprise. Today the Minister went off on something very much along the same sort of line. The Prime Minister was shown up on this in the last debate when he used a lot of figures about the number of staff alleged to be at the headquarters of the Road Haulage Executive; when those figures were analysed they were shown to be utterly ridiculous, as those of us on these benches thought they were when used.
They may well have been "trap-door" figures. The Minister today developed something along the same lines about the number of people, clerks and so on, who were employed by the Road Haulage Executive in an overloaded sort of fashion. I thought that was the crux of his criticism—the suggestion that the Road Haulage Executive were carrying far too many clerical workers having regard to the number of vehicles operating.
I was referring solely to the increase in staff this year. I have not at the moment got the figures before me, but I will readily give them later. I think the figure for the number of new vehicles was 1,333, and I referred to the number of people taken on for those vehicles, and then to the normal increase in staff. I said that these were significant figures, but that I was not going to draw a great deal from them because I was reluctant to give the impression that I thought there ought not to be a certain number of people behind the lines, as it were, getting the vehicles ready for the road.
All that the Minister says confirms what I was saying, that the inference to be drawn from his comments was that there were too many clerical and other such workers employed having regard to the number of lorries owned by the Road Haulage Executive. I want to answer that line of criticism from what I think is an unimpeachable source. If the Minister cares to consult "Modern Transport"—which is recognised in the transport occupation as authoritative on such matters—on this very point of the number of clerks, executive and overhead people connected with the road haulage
undertaking of the Transport Commission and privately-owned industry, he will find that this is what they say in their edition of 31st May of this year:
Exact comparison with the general run of haulage businesses in which there were so many part-time administrative workers are not, of course, possible. Taking, however, data submitted at acquisition by 96 rather larger undertakings, managers represent 3.7 of the total as compared with 0.46 per cent. in the Road Haulage Executive, clerical staff were 14.87 per cent. as compared with 13.12 per cent. in the Road Haulage Executive, and operating staff were 59.48 per cent. as compared with over 67 per cent. in the Road Haulage Executive.
Quite clearly, according to that analysis the advantages are with the Road Haulage Executive, and therefore I think it is rather a false point to try to carry further the inference that the Road Haulage Executive are carrying such a large number of clerical workers, and so on, having regard to the number of vehicles they are operating.
Having said that, I want now to come to one or two points on the Transport Commission Report, and in this I shall probably be alone on these benches, but that does not deter me from saying what I am proposing to say. I recognise that the Minister has not had too much time to make himself fully aware of all the details that there are in a great industry like transport, but I was astonished today to hear him talking about railways and giving the House the impression—I do not think he will dissent from this—that the financial side of the railways was quite good for the future.
That is as I understood his remarks, and I do not think he will dissent from that. There were other speakers, possibly on these benches, who would share the same view. I do not share that view. Indeed, not only do I not share that view but I take an absolutely contrary one, and I tell the Minister now that if the Government's proposals do become effective—and we are by no means certain of that—and if they do take further traffic from the railways, as is implicit in their White Paper, because they anticipate a further loss of traffic from rail to road, then I say without much hesitation that it is my view that where the Transport Commission has struck "evens," as it were, they will not continue to do that.
I admire the way in which the Minister comes to that Box and reads a state- ment involving a point like this and so often gets away with it. I do not want to chastise the Minister about that, because he does it very well, and I do not want to go over the story of fares. I would like to do that another time.
The troubles with this Government is that they have too many Ministers of Transport. They have the nominal holder of the office—and I hope that the present Minister of Transport will prove himself to be more than a nominal holder of the office—they have the noble Lord who sits in another place, whom they call the Minister for Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power; and they have the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who takes it upon himself to barge in at any odd moment on issues of transport about which he knows so little, and which caused so much embarrassment, as we saw, to the right hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) when he had the ignominious part of sitting on the Front Bench opposite unable to reply to 12 Questions on the Order Paper, because, for that day, the Prime Minister had barged in and taken over the responsibility, with all the subsequent difficulties.
Half of those difficulties have arisen just because of that, This is what I object to about the whole procedure. We have a rates tribunal which sits for months on end examining proposals about the increased transport rates. When they have done their work and made their recommendations, in barges the Prime Minister, not on the merits of the case, but because the elections in the country have gone against his party, and he says, "No, no, the Transport Commission must not put up fares like this. The borough council elections are coming and we shall have what happened in the London County Council elections." So the edict was laid down that the Transport Commission were not to operate these increased fares. Subsequently, talks were held between the Minister and the Transport Commission, and they agreed on the fares.
The effect of this is that the Transport Commission are to be deprived of £1,800,000 of revenue, which properly belongs to them, because of the Government interference. The Transport Commission are to lose this £1,800,000 and the Government have not even the decency to make good to the Transport Commission that sum of money of which they have deprived them.
Having deprived the Commission of that amount of income, the Minister has the audacity to say that the railways will have no difficulty about their income in the future. I do not share that view at all. My own view is that they will have immense difficulty in maintaining their position in the future. I repeat this because I hold this view very strongly.
The Commission make the point in their Report, that even if we take the total amount of losses in the whole of the years of their undertaking, it does not amount to what the Government took in one year towards the end of the war from railway operation in this country as surplus income. The Government of the country during the war days took £112 million out of railway operations. My own view always has been that if the railway industry were to be given justice at all, some of that money ought to be put back into the railway industry. I shall hold that view and I shall go on saying it, because I think that is the only sound way in which the financial operations of British Railways can be put on a stable basis.
I have two more important points which I wish to put before the House. I want to draw attention to something in the Report which I regard as exceedingly important. In the last Parliament I drew attention to what I thought was a serious matter in the loss of highly-skilled railway staff. British Railways are renowned throughout the world for their safety record.
Anyone who stands on Waterloo platform or at Liverpool Street, or at any of the London termini stations, and watches the hundreds of thousands of people pouring into London and being taken out at night, not merely in good weather like this but during the fogs of winter and all the rest of it and pauses to remember that all these people are brought in and out of London and in and out of the other great provincial cities of this country, sometimes without the loss of single passenger life in a year—that was their record in 1950, when all these millions of passengers were carried without the loss of a single life—what a contrast to the slaughter on the roads when 450 people a month are killed!
This remarkable record of safety of British Railways which has no equal in the world is something which everyone ought to admire. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do."] I get a little impatient with the sort of speeches which we constantly heard from the benches opposite—little niggling criticism; never a word of compliment to British Railways, but every little thing that went wrong magnified a hundred times. If British Railways are renowned for a magnificent record of safety, that is due very largely to the high skill of the staff of British Railways down through the years. If one looks at the Report, the fears which I expressed to the House in the last Parliament are, I think, confirmed. The Report, on page 94, says this:
In the first half of the year, operating difficulties unprecedented in the history of the railway were experienced. The main cause was a serious shortage of staff"—
and in the next paragraph:
The shortage of staff was felt particularly at a number of important centres in the south and in the midlands, and as many as 250 scheduled freight trains had to be cancelled each day.
The third paragraph states, and this is what I want to draw the Minister's attention to, because here he has very important responsibilities:
and the possibility of a major breakdown in the railway transport system could not be ignored.
These are serious words in view of the loss of highly skilled railway operating staff. In view of the times through which we are moving it is amazing that much more consideration has not been given to the problem. I urge the Government, as I urged my Government, to do something to prevent this enormous
wastage of highly skilled railway operating men which occurs through the stupid policy of calling up every year thousands of highly skilled men for the Forces who are then virtually lost to the railway industry for ever.
There is another matter about which I am highly critical, and I want the Transport Commission to know it. On page 83 the Report, in reference to wages grades, says:
Meetings were held between representatives of the Commission, the Executives and the Trade Unions to discuss a possible basis for a pension scheme for the wages grade staff of the undertaking.
Because of its financial position the Railway Executive has not been able to give the staff standards of wages and labour to which they are entitled, and the result of its not having been able to do that has been that large numbers of highly skilled men, upon whom the safety of British Railways depends, have left the industry. If a serious crisis arose tomorrow the Minister and the country would be in for it.
That is equally true, and the Railway Executive has made reference to it. Before the war our railways were able to recruit a fairly good standard of labour because the permanent employment in the industry was a great attraction in those days. Nowadays a permanent job makes no appeal whatever, and, on the other hand, there is the disadvantage that transport workers, and locomotive men in particular, have to go on duty at all hours round the clock, and today people are not willing to enter an industry which holds that disadvantage unless there is a compensating advantage, and a compensating advantage is what is lacking.
I and many of my colleagues who have spent their lives in the industry hoped that the provision of a superannuation scheme would provide the advantage for the wages grades. I played a not unimportant part at one time in breaking down the ban against undertakings such as this being able to provide a superannuation scheme for the wages staff. The miners took advantage of it and now have the beginnings of a superannuation scheme, and I admire them for it, but it is time that highly skilled railway operatives had such a scheme. A main line engineman can finish 40 years' strenuous service on main line trains from one end of the country to another—it is a shocking thing to say—without a penny in superannuation.
It would be quite unfair to blame Lord Hurcomb. I and my predecessors know that Lord Hurcomb is deeply concerned about this. I am in the closest association with him in the matter, as were my predecessors. The hon. Gentleman will know that there are very many difficulties about it. Lord Hurcomb is fully conscious of them, and I know he is anxious to find a solution.
I know Lord Hurcomb is conscious of the difficulties, for we were working on this towards the end of the war, but there has been ample time for the railwaymen to have a scheme if the miners have been able to do so.
I do not know whether Lord Hurcomb will agree with me, but I believe that much of the trouble is the financial difficulty, and unless the Minister finds some way of overcoming it the Transport Commission will remain with the problem of providing a worthwhile scheme. The Minister will not get the necessary staff to carry on these onerous duties unless a compensating advantage is offered, and a superannuation scheme would be a most important one. If the Minister will use his drive to have some such scheme prepared and embody it in the new Bill, I can promise him that that will be the one Clause in the Bill which will have the unanimous support of the House, although it will probably be the only one.
Although the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) has said so much since, I distinctly remember an observation in the early part of his speech from which I believe no one in the House will dissent. He said it was particularly necessary at present that the most economical and efficient use should be made of the nation's transport resources. The question which has so often been begged in speeches by the Opposition during the debate is whether the existing organisation of transport under the 1947 Act secures that result better than any alternative organisation. One of the important features of the Report is the evidence it contains that the present organisation is unsatisfactory when viewed in that light.
To all outward appearances the Report of the Commission is uniform with its predecessors; it is the fourth of a series which in format, style and presentation are apparently as alike as peas. In reality, the fourth is very different in content from its three predecessors, for they were factual Reports of the Commission's activities during the years under consideration but this Report is the statement of a partisan case and an apologia for the nationalised industry as founded by the 1947 Act. The data which the Commission has presented has been selected and arranged in order to present one view only of the matter that we are debating. That is a serious criticism and one which I regret to be obliged to make.
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but I am able to develop my speech properly without his assistance.
I wish to refer to what I consider to be the most outrageous misrepresentation of the many misrepresentations that the Report contains. Paragraph 111 compares the proportions of black-coated workers to vehicles in 1948 and 1951, and the argument is advanced that in 1948 when the Commission was operating with the undertakings in their pre-acquisition organisation the ratio of black-coated workers to vehicles was higher than in 1951. A little investigation of the facts will show the complete dishonesty of that statement. What, in fact, happened was this. In 1943 the Commission only acquired 248 comparatively small undertakings with 8,000 vehicles, and their administrative staff was over 0.5 per vehicles per motive unit. There was 4,654 administrative staff to 8,000 vehicles.
In 1949 came the major compulsory acquisition of long-distance undertakings. In that year 1,600 undertakings and nearly 27,000 vehicles were taken over, and when one looks to see the size of the staff taken over with those vehicles one finds a very different picture. The proportion there of the staff taken over is only 0.25 per motive unit, and even if one includes the staff which the Commission recruited from outside the figure is still less than 0.3 motive unit.
What was happening in 1948 was stated by the Executive in their Report for that year in which they said:
The Executive did not take over an existing organisation and it was necessary therefore first to recruit staff for Headquarters and then for the Divisions. … The problem has been to build up a staff to deal with the immediate responsibilities of the Executive under the Transport Act without denuding the acquired undertakings.
In fact, as the Commission knew perfectly well when they wrote that paragraph, they were building up large overheads in staff in 1948 preparatory to the take over in the subsequent years. The figures selected for quotation for partisan purposes are deliberately biased.
Nevertheless, in spite of the efforts which have been made to throw a particular light upon the matter, the realities of the situation, which are particularly disquieting in regard to British Road Services, peep through the cracks. I would refer first of all to what seems to me to be an important statistic, the fuel consumption per ton transported. As my right hon. Friend pointed out in his speech, the tonnage of traffic moved during 1951 by British Road Services was the same as in the previous year, but the fuel consumption was up by nearly 18 per cent. That is a figure which does not argue an increase of efficiency in operation and in running.
Reference has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) to the extraordinary figures of staff wastage. If we look at Table VIII-3 in the statistics of the Commission we find there has been a labour turnover of nearly 30 per cent. No undertaking of this description can be efficient with a 30 per cent. labour turnover. It is common knowledge that the labour turnover in the undertakings which were acquired was nothing like that figure, and in case it might be thought that these figures only relate to administrative staff I would mention that the same percentage is true of the drivers. It is upon the experience of the drivers and upon their constant contacts with their customers at each end of their normal runs that the efficiency and flexibility of a service of this sort to a large extent depends. These, therefore, are disquieting figures.
A good deal has been said about the apparent—and only apparent—working balance on the operations of the Road Haulage Executive, which amounts to between 3 per cent. and 4 per cent, of the gross working figure. Of course, when the central charges are taken into account, quite apart from the considerations which were advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins), it is, in fact, seen that British Road Services are still not paying for themselves. So far from the roads in this organisation having to come to the assistance of the railways, it is the railways which are making the appearance of a profit in nationalised transport.
I would suggest in this connection that hon. Members should look at the remarkable diagram on page 20 of the Commission's Report which, side by side with the comparatively trivial results of British Road Services, shows the enormous and steady working balances achieved every year by British Railways. So far from the roads subsidising the railways in this organisation, it is the railways which are providing even the appearance of successful working.
On the contrary, I am showing that British Road Services which are cited as being a profitable part of this nationalised industry, so far from being required under the present organisation to bolster up the railways are themselves being bolstered by the railways.
Then I would refer to the attempted nationalisation of road passenger transport. All the arguments which can be advanced for the nationalisation of freight transport can be advanced for the nationalisation of road passenger transport: but both the Commission and the former Minister of Transport have, in fact, been obliged tacitly to drop the whole thing. Nationalisation of road passenger transport is an admitted failure.
I want to come to what I think is the heart of the problem, and that is the
question of charges. It is interesting to follow through the growth of thought on this subject of the charges scheme since the Bill of 1946 was first presented to this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes). He said in his Second Reading speech:
For the first time in the history of transport, the British Transport Commissioners will be able to tackle the charges problem on a common-sense basis."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1635.]
He regarded a successful attack on the charges problem as one of the main justifications of the revolution which he was introducing in the organisation of transport.
This idea, growing and becoming dominantly insistent, can be traced through the four Reports of the Transport Commission. In their first Report they state:
Charges policy will be a key to effective integration.
In their second year Report they say:
To aid integration of the Commission's services and also to encourage the forwarding of traffic in economical loads, it is considered that the basis of the future classification should pay more regard than at present to loading capability the value factor … being reflected to a lesser degree
They were now coming to grips with the details of the charges problem.
In their third year they made this statement on the subject:
The introduction of new bases of charge for transport services is essential to the financial future of the Commission. The present position is impossible. The Commission have already announced their intention to propose railway rates which will take much greater account of the actual cost of the types of service on the one hand and what the competitive market"—
a very interesting expression—
will allow on the other.
And now, in the Report for this year, they have produced a statement on the subject of a charges scheme which, I think, may be regarded as a classic.
I will read it in English.
There is no question … of forcing the customer away from road to rail. … All the Commission ask is that the customer shall pay the real cost of the services he selects, and that he shall not receive one service at its bare cost if he insists at the same time on the maintenance of other services at less than cost. Though, in the present state of the country's
financial and economic position, it is difficult to establish what the true long-term cost of different forms of transport will be, it is of vital importance ultimately that the true costs of the various services shall be brought home to the customer.
I think it would be difficult to better that statement of the essential importance of a charges scheme to the whole question of transport. Yet we find that when we turn from the theory, the professed theory, to reality, there is an extraordinary gulf. A charges scheme, and a complete charges scheme was, in the view of the Minister, to have been presented within two years of the Act coming into force. That two years was extended to four years; the four years was extended to six years, and at the latest stage of which we have knowledge there is no real evidence that the Commission are further forward in the production of a sound and practical scheme than they were at the beginning.
There is a document called "Draft Outline of Principles Proposed to be Embodied in a Charges Scheme" which was published by the Transport Commission at the end of 1949. In looking at it I was reminded of those Chinese boxes which are sometimes given to children and which, to their disappointment, are found to contain, as they are examined, one box within another, and within another; until in the end all one gets out of it is just a box. When I examined this draft outline to see what the principles were to be I read through until I got to this paragraph. It is headed, "Classification of Regulations and Instructions" and this is what are the principles:
The new classification obviously requires regulations which, as far as practicable, will be applicable to all services of the B.T.C. The draft Regulations which it is proposed to apply will he issued later.
But the Commission have from time to time given a clue as to the difficulties which they are encountering, and those difficulties, I believe, do lead us somewhere near the heart of this problem. Last year in their third Report, they said:
It is impossible that any such scheme can at present lay down a detailed basis for road haulage rates and charges.
Already therefore, nearly two years ago, they found themselves unable to cope with what was the underlying professed object, a co-ordinated scheme of charges which would bring road and rail charges into relationship. And this year, in their fourth Report, they say:
Only slow progress has been made with the difficult matter of rationalising the basis and mechanics of fixing fares and freight charges.
Why, then, have the Commission found it so difficult, difficult to the degree of impossibility, to do that which they themselves, and the fathers of the Act, realised was the essence and the key to the whole matter? It is because they were being asked to fill the jar of the Danaids, or, in the words of the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend, that they had been entrusted with an impossible task.
The impossibility was that they were trying to reconcile two principles which within the structure of a universal state monopoly, are irreconcilable. The first principle is that which I have already quoted, the principle of charges based in general upon costs. But there is another principle. To that also the right hon. Member for East Ham, South made reference in his Second Reading speech at the end of 1946:
The Commissioners have had to carry through the task of integrating all forms of transport carried by the Bill and—this I would particularly emphasise—to see that all parts of the country are adequately served … It is only by a unified system, in which costs can be spread over the whole system, that we shall be able to overcome this problem.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1623.]
There we have an entirely different principle from the provision of services through a charges scheme based upon the cost of the particular service. This different principle demands that there shall be a unified system so that the costs shall be spread. The Commission themselves are aware of this other principle: In their third Report they refer to what I will call this principle of internal subsidy. They said there:
The complicated pattern of loadings and costs changes from hour to hour, and from service to service by days of the week. The combinations of fluctuation thus produced cannot be reflected in corresponding variations in the fare per journey undertaken by each passenger. In consequence each passenger, at one time or another, is either in receipt of 'subsidy' in the sense that he is paying less than the full cost of the service … or is himself 'subsidising' some other passenger. This is an unavoidable feature of any public service, passenger or goods, operating to regular schedules at tariffs fixed and quoted in advance. There is in a sense a social 'contract' to all those who use the services to average out the cost over periods of time and flows of traffic.
This is the antinomy with which the Commission have been helplessly grap-
pling. They were trying to evolve a scheme of charges, and at the same time they knew that they were obliged to provide a service which involved an element of internal subsidy and only thereby could they confer the benefits of size upon the users.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the same dilemma confronted the privately organised railway companies before the war which had to accept all traffics offered to them—a dilemma which does not confront any form of transport which has not the same obligations to the public?
I am obliged for that intervention. I intended to refer to an experience of the previous privately owned railways which I think puts us on the track of a solution. I refer to their experience with the restaurant cars. Every year the Commission have incurred a loss on the running of refreshment cars. They refer in their last Report to the financial problem of the restaurant cars which, they say, remains with them.
But it is a matter of common knowledge that on the old main line railways the restaurant cars rarely, or never, paid. They were often run at a loss because the total result to the undertaking was a gain. They were able to provide that service at a loss, as what is, I believe, called technically a loss-leader, because the whole financial result upon the undertaking was advantageous.
On the contrary, the Transport Commission are obliged, by the very nature of their universal monopoly, to regard each of their undertakings separately and, therefore, to view the persistent loss by the refreshment cars as an insoluble financial problem. It is an insoluble financial problem because there is no business undertaking—no organic business undertaking—which can compare its results with those of other undertakings or with its own experience year by year.
If the hon. Gentleman thinks about this he will see that there are other aspects of the railway service that have the same considerations. The collection and delivery services, the terminal services, have never paid for themselves. They have to be taken into account as far as the whole thing is concerned. They are still losing money, but it is not for the reason which the hon. Gentleman gives.
Exactly, but these things can be taken into account and provided for if we have a competitive structure. If we have autonomous, financially independent, competitive structures, these structures are capable of fulfilling what is called the social contract. It is possible to judge whether the provision of a service, in itself uneconomic, will in the general field result in advantage or not. This combination of the two principles of a charges scheme based upon real costs and a charges scheme which equalises the costs is only possible in the framework of autonomous, and not monopolistic, financially going concerns. It is only on that basis that the underlying problem of charges can be solved at all.
The Socialists have always made the mistake of confusing integration—which I am now using in the sense of the most economic exploitation of all the various resources of transport—with monopoly, and of failing to see that competition is one of the ways, and the most effective way, by which integration in that sense can be achieved. I want to quote, because it puts the matter better than I can, one of the concluding sentences from Mr. Gilbert Walker's book "Road and Rail":
It may be worth repeating once more the obvious fact that competition and co-ordination are not mutually exclusive states. A coordinated transport service might be established by an industry which remains competitive just as readily as by a monopoly, whether privately or publicly owned.
Therein, I believe, has been the fundamental error of the party opposite. They thought they could bring about coordination, and what, in fact, they created was monopoly. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) sat down at the end of his Second Reading speech nearly six years ago, he used these words:
I was going to say, if hon. Members would listen to me: 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.]
That boast is finally exploded by the Report of the Commission which we are considering, and the reason why it has remained an empty boast is that the party
opposite cannot see that competition and co-ordination are not exclusive, and where they seek co-ordination the results show that they only create monopoly.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has put forward some most extraordinary arguments concerning the basis of charges and other matters that he dealt with, but in view of the fact that the hon. Gentlemen who are to wind up the debate from the Front Benches will wish to rise very shortly I do not wish to deal with them.
I would only remind the hon. Gentleman that it is quite unjust of him to pin criticism on the British Transport Commission for not having produced a freight charges scheme, when it is stated in the Report that this scheme was promised to the former Minister at the end of last year, and that, in view of the change of Government and the statement on transport policy issued by the Government, that scheme has not been put forward. I therefore think that the hon. Gentleman was on rather weak ground there.
As for the figures which he questioned concerning the Road Haulage Executive staff, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give the answer there. The Minister of Transport is responsible for the Transport Commission, and if statements are made in this House that figures given in its Report are inaccurate or misleading it is for the Minister to reply to them.
This afternoon we had an extraordinary speech from the Minister of Transport. After bleating like a lamb and bestowing praise, first upon my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Transport, then upon Lord Hurcomb and finally upon the Transport Commission for their subsequent results, he then proceeded to roar like a lion to cover up his complete lack of argument and his ignorance of the transport industry. He then did the most extraordinary thing of all; he embarked upon a Second Reading speech of a Bill which Mr. Deputy-Speaker ruled was not even before this House.
It is understandable that the Minister should behave in this way because in 1947 the then Opposition rejected the case for the public ownership of trans- port. Immediately on assuming office, and without examining the evidence as to whether nationalisation had succeeded or not, and without seeing for themselves how the Transport Commission were operating, or consulting anyone within that Commission, the Government put forward proposals to disintegrate that organisation. They could surely have waited until the Report had been issued, or did they perhaps know what were its contents, as suggested by my right hon. Friend, and want to be sure that their statement on policy and their Bill were before the House before the public were aware of the very satisfactory results achieved by the Commission during 1951?
The Minister produced no evidence whatsoever for the change of policy which has been put before this House. He produced no evidence whatsoever to prove the statements which he made and which he threw about rather wildly concerning the Road Haulage Executive, statements which could be proved to be untrue. The true facts could have been ascertained by the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest of ease had he cared to consult the Commission or the Executive.
The main burden of the Minister's argument was that there was, in fact, no real integration within the Transport Commission, and the only alternative policy he suggested to integration was disintegration. He suggested that the Transport Commission should now, as it were, be atomised, but he produced no argument to show that benefits would accrue from such a process. Again, he showed complete ignorance of the working of the Act and also of its purpose.
I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that the Motion moved this afternoon by my right hon. Friend does not suggest that integration has been completed. It suggests that last year's achievements were a further step in that direction, and I think that should be kept in mind. It states:
That this House notes with approval the Fourth Annual Report of the British Transport Commission as marking a further stage in providing an efficient public transport system through the integration of road and rail traffic under common ownership.
It is only the first stage which has already taken place. That is common
ownership, and common ownership, in fact, was only finally achieved during 1951. It was only by the end of 1951 that the Road Haulage Executive had completed their acquisition of road haulage undertakings. Even so, although the process of achieving common ownership was proceeding throughout 1951, a considerable measure of integration has been achieved despite what the Minister said this evening. I would only remind the House of the statement made by Lord Hurcomb himself in his introductory letter to the Report.
The common ownership of road and rail and the removal of restrictions on the use of road haulage by the railways which has resulted, and the uneconomic and unequal competition which has ended with the Transport Act have, in effect, ended the horse and cart mentality which has been referred to in the House in the past and which was the basis on which the railways operated until fairly recently. Under common ownership of road haulage and British Railways it has been possible to extend feeder services to the economic limit, that is to go beyond the radius of a horse and cart service. Zonal schemes have been started which have enabled the collection and delivery of goods to road haulage centres from where they have been taken by motor trunk services to rail heads. This has eliminated a great deal of railway operations of a most expensive and uneconomic kind which involve a great deal of shunting and the like.
There has been inaugurated in East Anglia a scheme which is working on the basis of a common commercial service between road and rail. As pointed out in the statement on integration which the Transport Commission issued last year, the Commission are working towards a common commercial service which is an essential feature of a properly integrated transport system.
The objective of the Commission is a regional and de-centralised transport system as distinct from separate road, rail and inland waterway organisations. In other words, there has been greatly developed in the Commission, and substantially so during 1951, a transport mentality as opposed to a rail and road mentality, and this process of integration has made considerable progress. It would continue to progress at increasing speed if the Government did not come along at this stage and step in and prevent it going further.
I cannot understand why the Minister claims in this House this afternoon that this process has not been taking place. In fact, he is stating that the Chairman of the Commission in his introductory letter is not being accurate and is not speaking the truth. Lord Hurcomb makes it clear that it is proceeding and that fact runs through the Report. To attack the Transport Commission and the Transport Act and to claim that they have failed in this respect is to refuse to see the truth.
The Minister, of course, refuses to face facts because he does not want to have to admit that nationalisation has succeeded. This denial of the facts is false propaganda. If the truth is available false propaganda is of no use whatsoever, and we shall see that the truth about the result of the Transport Commission's work in 1951 is made known to the public.
Changes of immense benefit have taken place in the transport industry and further benefits would accrue if at this stage the system was left to develop freely and was not interfered with in this unnecessary and unjustifiable way by Government policy. The Minister contradicted himself. First of all, he said that the Transport Commission had not succeeded in integration because they only owned 41,000 vehicles, whereas the C licences had increased fairly substantially and now totalled some 800,000 and therefore there was not a monopoly and integration had not taken place. Then, a little later in his speech, he suggested that the Road Haulage Executive constituted a monopoly, and proceeded to attack them.
C licences certainly involve long-distance haulage, and it was to the competition on the long distances that the Minister referred. He was denying that the large increase in C licences had taken place in local delivery.
I consider that the Minister misunderstands the purpose of the Transport Act, 1947. The principle of that Act was that it recognised that equal competition between different forms of transport was no longer possible, and therefore the Act created intentionally a monopoly of long distance public haulage, for which compensation was paid. It cost the Transport Commission—in effect, the community—£80 million to acquire a monopoly of long-distance transport, of which £30 million represented goodwill for taking over the business as a going concern. That £30 million will be dissipated, as the Government admit, if this monopoly is broken up.
The Minister has not given us a single argument of what effect will accrue from the breaking up of the monopoly. There have been wild statements that the service of the private road hauliers will be better than that of the Road Haulage Executive, that the Road Haulage Executive are failing in their duty and fail to provide the services which were formerly provided. But no evidence or proof of that has been brought here this afternoon.
I think that the policy of the Government and the speeches of the Minister and other hon. Members opposite have exposed the fallacy which they hold with regard to competition. They still claim that efficiency and economy cannot be obtained without free competition; that is to say, that competition between different forms of transport would increase efficiency and make for economy, and that in effect it would lead to a freer interchange of goods. That is the illusion which the Government harbour.
But there cannot be free competition between unequal forms of transport. All forms of transport cannot have the same obligations and the same liabilities. There must be a common carrier, and unprofitable and unremunerative traffic will be thrust upon the common carrier, and other operators will be carrying the profitable traffic. It was to eliminate that situation and to prevent high prices having to be charged for certain services of the common carrier, which might be monopoly traffic, to pay for carrying competitive traffic cheap rates, that this monopoly was introduced.
As long as we have a situation in which we have unequal competition, then we shall have situations where we shall not be able to run our transport according to cost. If we cannot operate our transport on the basis of what it is costing, we shall not have an economic business and a fair form of transport.
If the Government proceed with the transport policy and the Transport Bill which they have put before this House they will find that they will fail in their purpose, because the community to whom this great national asset belongs—and the workers who are proud to operate it and who have done such a fine job in 1951—will reject this destructive policy, which is based only upon party prejudice. If the Government succeed in interfering with the successful development of the publicly-owned British transport system, they will not do so permanently, and the damage that will be done to the system by the Government will quickly be repaired by the next Government.
There has been a considerable depth of feeling on this side of the House this afternoon. I can assure the Minister and the House generally that that depth of feeling is real and sincere. We have very strong views about the way in which the Government are handling the transport situation which has fallen to them. If at times our indignation is not as good tempered as it might be the Minister will understand that it is because we feel that the Government as a whole are handling the situation extremely badly.
I want to say a word about the attitude of the Minister himself. It seems to me that he has behaved in rather a surprising way this afternoon. Attacks have been made upon the British Transport Commission by his hon. Friends, and some criticisms have been made from this side of the House; but he sat there, as he sits at the moment, with folded arms, in an apparently disinterested way, and we must wait to see whether we are to have any reply to those criticisms and attacks.
I have noticed that the road traffic which usually operates along the second bench opposite was blocked for a considerable time—until my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) asked for a specific reply to the allegations made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-West (Mr. Powell) and one of his hon. Friends the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), who spoke earlier.
I am not going to give way to the hon. Member again. I shall give way to others, as I always do. In the course of his interjection the hon. Member said that there was a very substantial turnover in the staff of the Transport Commission, and that was an indication of something being wrong with the state of affairs. I think that was what he said.
The Minister may interpret his attitude to the Transport Commission differently from the way in which his colleague the Minister of Fuel and Power interprets his attitude to the Coal Board; but I am bound to contrast the spirit in which the Minister of Fuel and Power approached his task when we had a debate on coal a little while ago with the spirit of the Minister of Transport today.
The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have at least the duty of ensuring that the Transport Commission are not misrepresented by their hon. Friends because of their political spleen. [Laughter.] As that statement is challenged I will give one example. The hon. Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins), who is in his place at the moment, made great play with the fact that the insurance premiums paid by the Road Haulage Executive had been substantially increased during the last few days. He deduced as the reason for that the low state of maintenance of the vehicles or the high accident rate. That is a slanderous thing to say.
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether it is true and whether he has the facts; because if he has not—and in case he has not—I will now supply them.
I will give the answer myself. I did what the hon. Member for Toxteth could have done; I rang up the Commission's Public Relations Officer and asked him what were the facts. The facts are these: that the insurance premiums of the Road Haulage Executive have been substantially increased during the last few days, as the hon. Member said. I asked for the reason, and this is the reason I was given—and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to comment on it: that the introduction of the Transport Bill and its proposal for breaking up and disposing of the Road Haulage Executive has meant that the insurance companies have said, "We cannot treat this business as having a longer life than 12 months and, therefore, we cannot adopt the normal insurance system."
I am not going to waste time with the hon. Member for Croydon, North (Mr. F. Harris) anyway. I was subjected to considerable discourtesy at one stage of the debate, which I do not propose to go into further. I am quite ready to give way to the hon. Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins), so that he may comment on what I have said.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. In fact, I gave way to him during my speech. If he will cast his mind back to what I said, he will recall that I referred to a statement made in the last transport debate by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who said that public safety was better now because of the better conditions of British Road Services' vehicles. I think I am right in saying that I then made the comment that because of the bad claims experience of British Road Services, the premium had recently been doubled. I ask the hon. Member to accept that as a statement of fact.
I do not know what point the hon. Member has served by repeating the allegation with which I have already dealt. I am assured that that is not the reason. I am assured by the Public Relations Officer of the Transport Commission that the reason was the introduction of the Bill to dispose of the Road Haulage Executive. Because of that—and I come back to the Minister again—I have ventured to say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is his duty to get answers to that sort of question. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be ready to give them to us when he replies.
I am very ready to answer that straight away. Immediately after hearing that, I made certain inquiries and, as I am advised, the reasons are three-fold. One is the rather adverse claims record in 1951, another is the fact that the Transport Commission drove an excellent bargain with the market originally and the market were anxious not to have such a bargain again, and the third is that undoubtedly, owing to the coming of the Bill, it is impossible to insure large lots for a long time ahead.
I am obliged to the Minister—and I leave it at that.
The purpose of this debate was partially to educate the Minister. Whether we have succeeded in doing so I do not know, but we hoped that it would make him read the Report of the Transport Commission. What happened was that a debate which was arranged to take place on the Report of the Transport Commission was turned by him into a defence of his Bill. I am not surprised, in view of the heavy attack he is subjected to in the "Daily Telegraph" today, in a middle page article, in which they had much harsher words to say about the Bill than I could ever hope to emulate.
I am not surprised that he has had to divert attention from the Commission's Report to try to defend himself against the attacks of his own friends. I am bound to follow him later in his remarks about the Bill, but for a moment I should like to say a word or two about the Report of the Commission which has been placed in front of him.
Quite shortly, as I understand, during the last year they have made a profit, in the conventional sense of that term, of £49 million, before charging interest of any sort. That seems to me to be a rather remarkable result considering the conditions under which they have been working. After charging interest and central charges, as they are called, the surplus which is left is reduced to £2.9 million.
So for the first time in their history during the last four years they have been able to return a surplus. This has not been achieved merely by raising charges and costs and fares against the public. As the Report of the Commission shows quite clearly—and I had hoped that the Minister would have taken us through the Report in greater detail than he saw fit to do today—there have been rather substantial economies that have had an effect. It was left to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) to point out to the House that whereas the charges of British Railways had increased by 93 per cent. since the end of the war their costs had increased by 150 per cent. And yet they are able to return a surplus.
Now, the only explanation of that fact can be improved efficiency in their working. There can be no other explanation that I know of. If the Parliamentary Secretary has got another one, no doubt he will tell us. There was a similar ratio in the increased costs and fares of London Transport. The plain truth is that the fare increases would have been much higher had it not been for the increased efficiency and economy with which London Transport and British Railways operated during the first four years of the nationalised industry.
I wish to go on to say that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) that the surplus they are making is not yet big enough. I agree with him. I do not think their finances are yet on a sound enough basis. I should like to put this point to the House. The Transport Commission are financed by means of fixed interest capital, so that what we should normally refer to as a profit of £41 million is, in fact, a surplus of some £2.9 million once the fixed charges have been met. I believe, therefore, that it is the task of the Transport Commission—and the task of the Government to help—to build up their internal savings at a rapid rate to avoid recourse to the market at an unfavourable time.
After all, we cannot guarantee that it will be able to launch any new capital issues that it may have without the Prime Minister's crashing in and sending Stock Exchange values tumbling down—as he did last Wednesday. There is no reason at all why the Commission should be subjected to these sorts of influences. They should have substantial internal reserves of capital on which it can call. Until they have, they are highly vulnerable.
They are in this difficulty—I think the Minister recognises it—that they have no equity capital to act as a cushion when times are bad. They have to meet their interest charges, and I believe, therefore—and I put this to the Minister—that it is his job to help the Commission to build up a substantial internal reserve so that they may not be in this extremely vulnerable position throughout the whole of their existence. I know that they are building up various reserves of one sort and another, but in my view they have not yet been able to do it fast enough.
That is why I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead in his attack upon the Government for their levity in the way in which they dealt with the fares schemes during the spring and early summer, by which they struck nearly £2 million off the revenues of the Commission without regard at all to those long-term considerations—and nonpolitical considerations—to which I am drawing attention at the present time.
Another factor in the Commission's Report to which I should like to draw attention is the clear need for greater capital resources. The Minister said—I agree with him, though this implies a friendly criticism of the Government of which I was a member, though I was not at the time at the Ministry of Transport—that the Commission had not got the allocation of materials and capital resources they would have liked. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South, as I know, fought a very continuous battle to get more capital resources available for the Commission. He partially succeeded, but he did not succeed as much as he would have liked, or as much as the Commission would have liked. From words the Minister himself uttered I draw the conclusion that he finds himself in much the same sort of trouble that we found ourselves in; in other words, we find that our economic difficulties are not solved by waving a magic wand and telling people. "You have to get rid of controls."
There are particular ways in which the Commission point out that they are suffering at the present time. I was hoping that the Minister might have paid some detailed attention to the words on pages 112 to 115 instead of launching out into his Bill, and it therefore falls to us to point this out. It is clear that the Commission are falling behind-hand with their permanent way renewals, with the painting and repair of stations, the maintenance of bridges, in their signalling and telecommunications units, and also in the provision of locomotives, carriages and wagons.
I have not the time now to go into this in detail, and I would not attempt to mislead the House by saying that I think the situation is yet wholly serious. I think that the Commission are holding on, but I do not think that they are making any progress. If anything, I think they are not keeping abreast of the tide but are dropping slightly behind, and that is an extremely serious situation. I wish that the Government of which I was a member could have devoted more capital resources to the development of our transport system, and, speaking nonpolitically. I hope very much that the Minister will have better luck.
I certainly hope he will, because I think that this is a most important matter. It is even more important when the Government apparently propose to split road from rail, leaving the railways to fend for themselves, because if they are in no fit physical state to fend for themselves the consequences to the transport system of the country and to the railways are much more serious than if the two are running in common harness.
Perhaps I might be allowed to make just one reference to page 42 of the Report to conclude that section of what I was saying, by referring to Paragraph 87 and to the economies which the Commission say they can secure
if adequate capital and physical resources are forthcoming.
They say—and these, I think, are very important statements—that in their view
The improvement in freight train speeds which ought to result from a general introduction of the fully-braked wagon would produce savings of millions of pounds a year; the modernisation and re-siting of marshalling yards would substantially reduce costs;
and they go on to say, later:
Advance under such heads is at present held up, and has been held up since 1938 at least.
I believe that the time has come to give the Commission more of the available
capital resources that we have got in order to enable industry in this country to secure the benefit of a modern and efficient railway system, and I should like to hope that the Minister will be able to secure higher priority for the railways than they have had hitherto.
There are other tests of efficiency to which he made reference. Despite the difficulties that they have had, as they show on page 45—and here is an example of their increased efficiency—they have, nevertheless, managed to haul more tons more miles in an hour per engine in the service than they were able to previously. If I can convert the index which is given here into a statistic which I hope is right, I would put it in this way. Whereas four years ago they were able to haul 100 tons at a speed of 5.43 miles an hour—taking all the tons they hauled, all the miles they hauled them, and all the engine hours—last year they hauled the same amount 5.95 miles in an hour. Now, even a small decimal of that sort is fantastic when we consider the overall picture, and I am very gratified indeed, and I think the Minister might have paid them a better tribute than perhaps he did.
That was the phrase I was searching for, but I have not quite the facility of my right hon. Friend.
The Minister made another attack today on the staff employed by British Road Services. I should have thought he would have learned his lesson from what happened last time, when the Prime Minister said that there were 11,000 administrative and clerical staff employed at the headquarters. He said today that he could not understand why in a particular section—which I did not quite get—the staff should have increased as it has done in British Road Services. If he does not understand it, why has he not asked them? He has a telephone on his desk; he has a typewriter available and a typist there. Lord Hurcomb would have been glad, I am sure, to come to see him. Why has he consistently and deliberately ignored British Road Services and the Road Haulage Executive since he became Minister of Transport? [An HON. MEMBER: "He is afraid of them."] He apparently shakes his head, but he has not paid a single visit to the Road Haulage Executive.
I should have been there today but for this debate. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but every member of the Road Haulage Executive has been to my house and had a talk with me there. Every member has been asked by me to come, and, as far as I know, every member has been to my house.
The Minister has paid no visit to the Road Haulage Executive nor to any of its depots. He has seen none of the operative staff, although he may have seen at his house on social occasions, or some other occasions, some members of the Road Haulage Executive. I will talk to the right hon. Gentleman about that afterwards. Why has Lord Hurcomb not been to see the Road Haulage Executive? Why should we be left in the state in which the Minister comes to this House, after a considerable period in office, and say, "I cannot understand why the British Road Services have had to increase their staff."
I think that shows a lamentable failure in the discharge of his duties. He should either know what the real answer is, or he should not make such a statement. I do not think that he knows what resentment he causes. It is out of all proportion to the party point he scores, in the minds of those working for the Road Haulage Executive today. He listens to gossip and retails prejudices. It is high time that he saw for himself, and got on with the job, as a Minister should do.
I want to put another point to the Parliamentary Secretary. As his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West accuses the Transport Commission of deliberately misleading the public and the House by falsifying the figures contained in paragraph 111 of the Report, I wish to know from the Parliamentary Secretary—and I am sure that the whole House and the public would like to know—whether, in fact, the Commission have deliberately falsified these figures or not; whether, in fact, they had tried to give a misleading impression.
Either the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is right, in which case the Commission are sadly to blame and falling well below the level I should expect of them from what I know of them and of the records of those who prepare these documents, or else he is wrong, in which case he should have the grace to withdraw; and, in any case, he might have found out what the facts were before he made these allegations.
I think that the most significant thing about this debate is the way in which the Minister, so far as I understood him, has thrown overboard the idea of integrating the road and rail services. I confess that I am not clear about this. [Laughter.] Yes, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give me some enlightenment, because it is a difficult matter to explain. If some of the hon. Members who are now laughing had been here all day, they would have seen what we have seen. [HON. MEMBERS: "We have."] The House has filled up very considerably during the last 10 minutes or quarter of an hour.
The point I want to put to the Minister, and which, I think, is the whole essence of the problem, is this: as the Minister himself said, transport is a public service. Its job is to carry the goods for industry as cheaply, efficiently and economically as it possibly can. That was recognised in the case of the railways. They were told they had to become a public service, not a private enterprise. They were a public service in the sense that anybody could go to a station with a parcel or load and say that it should be sent to any part of the country that he nominated, and the railways would be bound to take it. They had to run regular services for virtually all traffics and accept everything that was offered to them and carry it to whatever destination the consignee might require.
That obligation was imposed upon the railways before there were such things as lorries, because the railways had a monopoly in the field. They carried out the obligation. It meant that they made a loss on certain services and had to cover it by making more than a due amount of profit on others. The essence of their being a public service and common carriers was that they had placed upon them the running of the service at all times that any member of the public might care to ask them to run it. That was an onerous obligation. It meant giving all comers the same equal treatment.
From the start the road hauliers were placed in a much more favourable position. No such obligation was laid upon them. They had to secure a licence before they could operate, and they all ganged up to prevent anybody else getting into the racket. We all remember what went on and how they were operating in a semi-monopoly and preventing any newcomer getting into the industry in the 1930's. But although they had the protection of this semi-monopoly they never had an obligation as common carriers.
It was because of the inconsistencies of this arrangement, because the road hauliers were free to raise or lower their charges as they thought fit, free to run a service or not to run a service as they thought proper, and free to run to a timetable or how they thought best, that they were not a public service but an organisation for providing a livelihood for road hauliers. If the road hauliers could not make a profit they did not run a service. I am sorry to go over these basic facts but they are the essence of the problem which the Minister must face.
We tried to solve the problem by integrating road and rail services under common ownership. The Minister says that there is no foreseeable chance of these plans coming to fruition. Why is that? He did not tell us why; he produced no evidence why they are not coming to fruition. The Chairman of the Transport Commission thinks they are coming to fruition. On 9th July, Lord Hurcomb wrote to the Minister of Transport saying that the way had been prepared for many important steps in the process of integrating the different forms of transport from which large economies would eventually result. The Minister says, "No." What evidence has he? We know that he has not been to see the Transport Commission. What is his evidence for saying that the Chairman of the Transport Commission does not know what he is talking about when he says that integration was on the verge of coming into existence and that large-scale economies would eventually result?
I regret that I cannot give way. I have only two minutes left. I ask the Minister to provide us with the evidence which he ought to have put before the House this afternoon when he spoke about the Bill.
The fixed pattern of charges which would have equated road and rail and would have enabled integration and competition to flow has been put into cold storage by the Minister. He has put the clock back about 20 years. There is no, excuse at all for a Bill of this sort—the Minister will create great damage by the alteration that he is making—unless he has something to replace what he is taking away. All he is doing is destroying the idea of integration.
He is proposing to sell back the road haulage units and we shall be back in precisely the position we were in in the 30's which led the Salter Commission—that name will not be unfamiliar to hon. Gentlemen opposite—to say that it believed that the best division of function would 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 advantage of complementary services. That Commission also said:
Nationalisation of the railways alone, leaving other forms of transport in other hands, will not produce any real co-ordination of transport.
That is what the Minister is doing, and I say to him that he should take warning from what he is doing, because I fear it cannot last. The plain truth is that our Motion, which welcomes with approval the Report of the Transport Commission, exposes this Transport Bill as a piece of egregious and superfluous frivolity, which has no relationship at all to the problem of transport at the present time. Instead of pursuing the policy of integration, the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing the policy of rewarding his friends who contribute to Tory Party funds.
For the third time in a period over a few weeks I have the privilege of following the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) at the end of a full day's debate on transport. Hon. Members who have been here all day will agree that this has been the most interesting of them, containing as it has a review of the past, an analysis of the present and more than one peep into the future. I think that I would describe it, however, a little differently.
I would say that we are at the close of what I would call Part I of a two-day debate on the virtues or vices of monopoly, and it will be interesting to us on this side of the House to see whether tomorrow the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite follow quite the same line as that to which we have just listened from my distinguished predecessor in the office which I now hold. [Interruption.] I hope I shall not get at cross purposes with the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren). We are not now discussing the fate of the friendly societies.
We ought to be clear at the end of a very interesting discussion, which has produced so many good speeches, on the issue of whether to move a commercial undertaking, be it under private enterprise or State control, out of the red into the black is right and proper or naughty and peccant, because over a number of years we have had a number of interesting theories on that particular subject. The question is whether it is right for the profit motive to penetrate into this sphere of the nationalised industries.
We have been discussing from 3.30 not the efficiency of the staffs of the British Transport Commission, but the practicality of the system which they have to operate. Naturally there has been a distinct cleavage of view on the two sides of the House. Hon. Members opposite, while they do not go the length of saying that all is well, say that all is a great deal better than before the passage of the 1947 Act. But the debate has hardly borne that out.
May I first of all take road haulage. On this side of the House, whether in or out of office we have never concealed our opinion that private enterprise can give a better service than any national organisation. I know—and here there will be common ground between us all—that the Executive and their staff have given of their best since they were established, anti nothing I say is in any way critical of their efforts. They have done their best, but in the process have demonstrated that road haulage is particularly unsuitable for centralisation.
The hon. Member should listen. The object of these debates is to reply to speeches made by hon. Members opposite, and it is customary to listen to remarks made by hon. Members on this side of the House.
It is the evidence that the hon. Member will receive, if he will be kind enough to listen.
Making due allowance for the taking over of a very large number of expropriated undertakings, it can hardly be regarded as satisfactory that in 1950 the Road Haulage Executive failed to meet its operating expenses by about £1 million. The results in 1951 were better in respect of £3¼ million, which was barely enough to cover their contribution to the central charges of the Commission, including the interest on British Transport Stock.
Even this somewhat meagre yield—and here I am being purely factual—is not being maintained, in view of the recent and current trends of traffic to which I shall refer in a moment or two.
In returning the road haulage interests to private ownership, it can hardly be said that the Government are depriving the British Transport Commission of a lucrative asset. I say that for the reason that on the traffic side prospects do not look brilliant for the Commission's road haulage undertaking. In 1951 the tonnage carried on British Railways was 1.2 per cent. in excess of 1950. and the corresponding figure for road haulage was 99 per cent. But, whereas during the first 20 weeks of this year the railway traffic has kept up, and indeed has increased by 1.4 per cent. over the corresponding period of 1951, road haulage traffic has shown a marked decline, the tonnage carried being 5 per cent. less than for the corresponding period of 1951, and 7 per cent. less than for the corresponding period of 1950.
These figures are, of course, affected by the types of traffic carried by road and rail respectively. But even so the traffic trend for the Road Haulage Executive cannot be described as encouraging. Short distance traffic, for which the Executive are in competition with private enterprise, has tended, as the Report indicates, to decline throughout 1951. As the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and others have made clear throughout the whole of this discussion, the basic idea of the 1947 Act was the integration of the means of transport brought under the ownership, control and direction of the Commission, and principally this has meant the road and rail services.
Integration was primarily the function of the Commission, but as hon. Members will know, the actual operation of the railways and road haulage was that—
It is contrary to the usual practice of this House for speeches to be read, but it has become the practice in recent years for Ministers to be allowed greater latitude in this respect.
I have sat here all day without interrupting any hon. Member who has spoken. I always feel that it is courteous to the House to take careful notes of what is said and the arguments that are put forward and to adhere to them fairly closely in making a reply when the time is somewhat limited. That is what I have done. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that I have come here armed with some document which I brought into the Chamber at 3.30, let me assure him that he is wrong. What I did was to take notes as we went along.
If that be so and the Minister's speech has arisen from the questions put to him during the debate, can he explain how it is that he has the figures for the first 13 weeks of this year which do not arise from the Report and have not been referred to in the debate?
I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, with the greatest respect, that it is the duty of a Minister, however insignificant, to arm himself with the facts. I would say that from those figures it is obvious that but little progress has been made in the direction of integration. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies), in a most interesting speech, early in the day, asked me—
The hon. Gentleman is seeking to draw a conclusion that there has been a total decrease in the volume of traffic carried by the Commission. Would he not agree that that is a reflection of the general trade recession in the months that have passed since his Government came into office?
I do not think that that is a new point. The hon. Gentleman, even according to my notes, is three pages astern of where we were. I had come to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North who asked me about the charges scheme. He will find more about them on page 76, paragraph 194, of the Report which sets out the history of this matter. It tells how the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) allowed postponement of the preparations for the scheme, another postponement and so on. It is all set forth in great detail.
The hon. Gentleman said something which I was sorry to hear from him, because he is always extremely fair in controversy. He made the allegation that C licence vehicles were causing accidents on the roads. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East laid down his views as to what ought to be done in the way of familiarising oneself with these problems. I should like to say to him and to the House that I have always felt that if one wants to test the fighting qualities of a regiment one does not go to the base depot: one goes to see them in action.
I have made it my duty since holding this office to make tours of the roads of this country, when the Recesses came along, for the purpose of looking at the problems of road safety, and the like. I want to say to the House that in my view there is no higher standard of driving in the world than that displayed by those who drive heavy vehicles in this country. I say that without dividing the drivers into whether they are in charge of a British Road Service vehicle or a C licence vehicle or whether they are operating for private enterprise or not. I thought it a pity that the hon. Gentleman made that comment.
The hon. Gentleman has rather misunderstood the point. The point I was making was that there had been the creation of so many licences unnecessarily—not specifically C licence exclusively—that the roads had been cluttered up with traffic which made them unsafe. I was not singling out C licence holders. The point was that the roads were over-congested with many heavy vehicles.
I understand that the statistics so far apply to all types of traffic and not to any particular lorry drivers in this country. I am very glad that the point has been cleared up.
The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. W. Reid) said he thought we were not giving attention to the subject of the traffic problems of Glasgow, and, in order to demonstrate to the hon. Gentleman that that is not so, I would say to him that I have made inquiries since he spoke and would like to tell him how matters stand.
The Commission have submitted copies of the Inglis Report to the Glasgow Corporation and to all other authorities interested in transport and town planning in the Glasgow area. These have set up the Clyde Valley Planning Advisory Committee, which is shortly to examine the Report. After they have received the comments of the authorities, the Commission propose to consider the report in conjunction with the Railway Executive and Scottish Omnibuses, Limited. Lord Hurcomb has undertaken to inform the Minister of the Commission's views, and I plead guilty to reading that word for word from manuscript. I understand further, through the usual channels, that there is likely to be a day for a debate on Scottish transport problems before we separate for the Recess.
Among the interesting speeches which have been delivered today was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins), and I think that one of the points he made may well bear repetition at this stage; namely, that the acquired road haulage companies were making profits of £8 million a year, which have virtually disappeared, the Commission's average operating profits for the three years being just about £1 million.
An hon. Gentleman opposite asked about the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in reference to certain figures in the Commission's Report, and it so happens that I have taken steps to try to catch up with the matter. The published figures are in no sense the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister. They are the responsibility of the Commission, and this House being what it is, hon. Gentlemen are entitled to draw such conclusions as they think fit, and the arguments adduced are weighed by those who sit on both sides of the House. Certainly, my right hon. Friend has no responsibility whatever for the figures that are published.
This is surely a matter of fact? Has the Commission falsified the figures, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said, or have they not?
I think I have heard that argument adduced on both sides of the House very many times during the years I have sat here.
The hon. Gentleman also claimed that the fact that London fares, and fares generally, had not risen more sharply was due—must be due, he said—to the increased economies and efficiencies of the Commission. Of course, efforts have been made in that direction, and I would, with respect, call attention to paragraph 53 of the Report—and I remind hon. Members opposite that this is the Report and not anyone speaking from this bench—in which it is stated:
… the most important factors explaining the difference between the level of costs and the level of fares are as follows:—
That is the view of the Commission. I have no doubt whatever that they have done their best in the matter of econo-
mies and efficiency, but that is their own view as to the efforts which have been made. Far from the road haulage subsidising the railways, if the hon. Gentleman goes into the figures he will see that the Report says that the railways have, in fact, sustained to date the Road Haulage Executive.
I think this has been a debate of very great interest and usefulness. We had hoped it was going to be even more interesting because, during the news bulletin last Sunday, the alluring prospect was held out that the attack was going to be opened by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and we were prepared to receive his onslaught after listening to the news bulletin. But, instead, we had the right hon. Member for East Ham, South, who is always very agreeable when he speaks to us. I wonder whether the reason why the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South has not gone into action is the rather wounding remarks in the "Railway Review" that on the last occasion he kicked through his own goal, although we were advanced in the cricket season. We should have liked to hear him, and no doubt we shall when we come to the Bill.
The theme on this side of the House during this discussion has been that of over-centralisation, and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House, whatever their political allegiance, very often feel that too much centralisation does have a somewhat frustrating effect. For instance, in the part of the country which I have the honour to represent the railway men regarded themselves with far greater pride when they worked for that part of the system which called itself G.W.R. than they do working for that part with the strange initials B.R.(W.), which, after all, are open to misinterpretation.
When the Minister made his speech, he gave us a promise that he would submit for the consideration of the House facts concerning this Amendment where it says:
The British Transport Commission and the Executive … were entrusted by the Trans-
port Act of 1947 with an impossible task, the attempt to discharge which has seriously impeded the interchange of goods and services throughout Great Britain.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary do something which the Minister failed to do, that is, give us the facts regarding that part of the Amendment?
The hon. Gentleman knows it is always difficult to cover all the points raised in debate. [Laughter.] I am going to claim, despite the mocking laughter of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, after all, have not been here to listen, that the Opposition's main line of approach has already been met.
As it happens, for my final illustration of the evils of over-centralisation, I was coming to the very railway which the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) has mentioned. There is a small town on the shoes of Bridgwater Bay on the Bristol Channel, where I first saw the light. It is on the Somerset and Dorset Railway.
I am sure that hon. Members will be interested in this perfectly simple illustration of what sometimes happens when one has over-centralisation. I was extremely intrigued during the last few days to see displayed at Euston Station—it is not the station from which one travels, but let that pass—some alluring posters about Burnham, which now calls itself Burnham-on-Sea. The artist had let himself go. The beach was crowded with glamorous characters. The hills had been moved to another point of the compass to make a better picture. What impressed me was the letterpress which said "British Railways. Burnham-on-Sea, The Favourite Family Resort. Travel by Train."
But if any hon. Member were to visit my native town by that method of travelling by train he would find himself up against a major obstacle. The Transport Commission closed down the railway station on 27th October last. I can only think that the Commission were inspired by the dictum of Robert Louis Stevenson that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. This debate has shown the result of this kind of over-centralisation.
As hon. Members well know, this Report is a tribute to the energy and enthusiasm of the staffs of the Transport Commission, and I can only assure the House that to that energy and enthusiasm there presently will be added greater freedom and flexibility.
Rarely in this House have we listened to a winding-up speech in a debate on an important subject such as transport from someone who, although holding office associated with transport—it is true he has held it only for a short while—appears to have taken no interest whatever in his Department and refuses to pay this House the compliment that is due to it by—
|Division No. 220.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hoy, J. H.|
|Adams, Richard||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Albu, A. H.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Deer, G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Delargy, H. J.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Dodds, N. N.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Donnelly, D. L.||Hynd, J. B. (Atterctiffe)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Edelman, M.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Baird, J.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Janner, B.|
|Balfour, A.||Edwards, Rt Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Bence, C. R.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Benson, G.||Ewart, R.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Beswick, F.||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Field, W. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Fienburgh, W.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Blackburn, F.||Finch, H. J.||Keenan, W.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Kenyon, C.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Follick, M.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Boardman, H.||Foot, M. M.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Forman, J. C.||Kinley, J.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Gibson, C. W.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gooch, E. G.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Logan, D. G.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||McInnes, J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Grey, C. F.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McLeavy, F.|
|Carmichael, J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Champion, A. J.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mallalieu, J. P. W (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Clunie, J.||Hamilton, W. W.||Manuel, A. C.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hannan, W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Collick, P. H.||Hardy, E. A.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hargreaves, A.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Messer, F.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S)||Hastings, S.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hayman, F. H.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Monslow, W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Moody, A. S.|
|Daines, P.||Herbison, Miss M.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morley, R.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hobson, C. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Holman, P.||Mort, D. L.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Moyle, A.|
|Murray, J. D.||Royle, C.||Tomney, F.|
|Nally, W.||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|O'Brien, T.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Oldfield. W. H.||Shawcross, Rt. Won. Sir Hartley||Usborne, H. C.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Orbach, M.||Short, E. W.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Oswald, T.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M (Bradford, C.)|
|Padley, W. E.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Weitzman, D.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Pannell, Charles||Slater, J.||West, D. G.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Parker, J.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Paton, J.||Snow, J. W.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Peart, T. F.||Sorensen, R. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wigg, George|
|Poole, C. C.||Sparks, J. A.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Popplewell, E.||Steele, T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Porter, G.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R.R.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Proctor, W. T.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Pryde, D. J.||Stross, Dr. Barnett||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H||Summerskill, Rt Hon. E.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Rankin, John||Swingler, S. T.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Reeves, J.||Sylvester, G. O.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Rhodes, H.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Richards, R.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Yates, V. F.|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thurtle, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ross, William||Timmons, J.||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Godber, J. B.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Cary, Sir Robert||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Channon, H.||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Gower, H. R.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cole, Norman||Grimston, Hon, John (St. Albans)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Harden, J. R. E.|
|Astor, Hon J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hare, Hon. J. H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe)||Cranborne, Viscount||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Crouch, R. F.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Barber, A. P. L.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Barlow, Sir John||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hay, John|
|Baxter, A. B.||Cuthbert, W. N.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Heald, Sir Lionel|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Davidson, Viscountess||Heath, Edward|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Deedes, W. F.||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxfeth)||Drayson, G. B.||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Birch, Nigel||Drewe, G.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T (Richmond)||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)|
|Black, C. W.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Holt, A. F.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Duthie, W. S.||Hope, Lord John|
|Bossom, A. C.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Finlay, Graeme||Horobin, I. M.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fisher, Nigel||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Fleteher-Cooke, C.||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Fort, R.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Foster, John||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Hurd, A. R.|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'gh W.)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Gage, C. H.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gammans, L. D.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Jennings, R.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Speir, R. M.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Kaberry, D.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||Nugent, G. R. H.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Nutting, Anthony||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Odey, G. W.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Storey, S.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Osborne, C.||Summers, G. S.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Partridge, E.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Linstead, H. N.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Teeling, W.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Pitman, I. J.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Powell, J. Enoch||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Tilney, John|
|McAdden, S. J.||Profumo, J. D.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|McCallum, Major D.||Raikes, H. V.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Turton, R. H.|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Redmayne, E.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Renton, D. L. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Robson-Brown, W.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|MacLeod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Roper, Sir Harold||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester|