Orders of the Day — Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd April 1953.

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Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West 12:00 am, 22nd April 1953

I have sought to listen to the very able and moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor), which was accompanied by a running commentary from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who we always hear on these topics, even though it is sometimes only sotto voce. He seems to be regarded as the Beau Brummell of the managerial revolution, and no doubt at a later stage we shall hear him addressing us at full length and giving us the benefit of his wisdom.

I hope that hon. Members opposite will not be deterred from listening to him by any feeling of ineffectiveness or lack of knowledge on his part. We on this side always associate the hon. Gentleman with booms rather than slumps, and we shall, therefore, hail him with pleasure. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, although he may have thought that some of his colleagues did not make any impression on the House yesterday, what they said was not without some effect because I observed from time to time on the face of the Patronage Secretary a look of deep emotion as he listened to some of his colleagues.

Yesterday, I ventured to give the House the benefit of my knowledge upon Amendments I supported, but I have now been called upon to support an Amendment of which I have no understanding at all. In those circumstances, it was quite natural that I should wonder whether I should inflict my observations upon the House. It seems to me that in a House of experts one ought to leave the matter to those who have an understanding of it. But it is still the duty of hon. Members to point out some of the difficulties under which they labour.

We are considering a Lords Amendment of some 3,000 words, running into several pages, which was explained in another place by the Minister concerned in a speech which lasted less than five minutes and occupied one and a quarter columns in the records of the other place. I have read through that speech several times and have tried to understand the scheme proposed, but every time I read it I could not believe it. It seemed so fantastic. This is the scheme which is before the House at the moment.

I am quite sure that at some stage we shall have an explanation from the Minister. I think it right to point out that not only do we have no explanation in the Lords, but we get no explanation in the Commons until all the Amendments to the Lords Amendments are disposed of, so that it is only when it is too late to put the thing right that we are told, what the Clause means and how it is intended to operate.

I feel, therefore, although, as I say, I rose with trepidation and hesitancy and with a certain sense of insufficiency— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am very grateful for the assurances of hon. Members opposite, because at a moment like this I feel fortified more than I usually do by their observations. I am at least capable of knowing what the Amendment means and the effect it will have.

As I understand the proposal, it is that we should take the transport industry of the country—a living, vital link in all our national services—at a time when we are being informed by many Ministers that OUT situation in regard to defence matters, and so on, is rather difficult and that we are facing the possibility of economic crisis and are battling for national existence, and dispose of it on precisely the basis that one disposes of a bankrupt firm. I know I must be wrong about this, and that there must be some other provisions which we shall have fully explained to us later.

As I say, I read the Clause more than once with all the care I could lavish upon it. Perhaps the words of Lord Lucas of Chilworth will bring light to the House, and, therefore. I propose to quote his words.

He said: The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, in his Second Reading speech, maintained the same point—that there is only one way in which you can sell the bulk of these other assets: by hiving them off into companies, not selling them as chattels. The only way you will get rid of the buildings and depots is by organising limited liability structures and wrapping them round, the kernel of a transport business."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 10th March, 1953; Vol. 180, c. 1188.]