Transport and Technology

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th November 1965.

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Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth Vauxhall 12:00 am, 16th November 1965

The gentleman, is I know, a very able economist, but there are many other first-class economists in the universities who have been working for years on this problem; but there is not much agreement on the subject.

When my right hon. Friend tried to carry out his duty to bring forward a scheme of integration and co-ordination, I must say he went about it in the most clumsy way possible. Early in the year he appointed a complete outsider who knew nothing about transport—Lord Hinton. He is a brilliant man, but to bring him in from outside to present a programme of co-ordination was bound to lead to failure. It could do nothing else.

Then my right hon. Friend horrified many of us on this side of the House as much as hon. Members opposite when he suggested that this brilliant administrator and economist should spend a year studying the subject and produce a secret report which no one was allowed to see except himself; not those employed in the industry or Members of Parliament, the local authorities, or the public. I was amazed that my right hon. Friend should agree to such a proposal. I was even more amazed by the excuse he gave that this man would be a civil servant and therefore it was inappropriate for him to make a public report. Yet the most brilliant report published in the last few years was produced by Professor Buchanan who was then a civil servant. However, that chapter is now closed.

Speaking personally, and without responsibility, what I would have done —I said this in this House when the Beeching Report came out and when we opposed it strongly—would have been before any of the Beeching proposals were put into effect to ask Dr. Beeching himself to make a complete investigation of the transport system of the whole country. We should have had that report published and when it was before us we could decide to act upon it or not as we thought fit. I should have liked Dr. Beeching to have done this. My right hon. Friend tried but he failed. I do not know the grounds of the failure. Dr. Beeching has stated that he could not carry out his task in view of the conditions imposed upon him. He said that publicly.