On a point of order. The Report which we are about to debate does not deal with British Railways, although mentioning them. In debating London Transport, it is very difficult, particularly for hon. Members from the fringe areas, not to discuss the effect of the operations of British Railways. Will you permit some reference to them during the course of debate, Mr. Speaker?
I never rule hypothetically. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman gets out of order, I, or whoever is in the Chair, will call him to order. We are debating a Report, and the rule in this debate is quite simple—hon. Members can only debate what is referred to in the Report. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must use his ingenuity.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
this House takes note of the Report from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries in the last Session of Parliament and of the Second Special Report from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries relating to London Transport.
I speak as Chairman of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, which is probably more popularly known outside as the Parliamentary watchdog on publicly-owned undertakings. The Report which we are discussing is the first to have been submitted from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries with a Labour Chairman in control. Hitherto, since the inception of the Committee, the Conservative Party had been in Govern-
ment, and this is the first time that a Report has been submitted on behalf of the party which now occupies this side of the House. In consequence, certain changes may be apparent according to whatever viewpoint one takes. Although it has always been the desire and the practice of the Committee to keep politics as far as possible away from its findings, there is one incident in the Report in which politics has crept in. I deplore this, but it is only right that I should refer to it.
I realise that I am following some illustrious Chairmen of the Committee, including the right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and his predecessor, now Lord Aldington. We know of the extremely interesting and valuable work that the Committee in the past has done and the type of membership which it has had, with a desire to probe the working of nationalised industries.
From the Report, I have to bring forcibly before the House the fact, which is fairly well known by most Londoners, that London Transport is definitely in trouble. It is some of the reasons for this which my Committee has investigated and which we highlight in our Report.
Under the terms of its establishment in 1947, London Transport was charged with the particularly difficult task of providing an adequate service and, at the same time, making that service pay. This was emphasised by the 1962 Act. The requirement to provide an adequate service and that London Transport should pay its way has, to say the least, raised many complicated problems.
I will deal first with the adequacy of the service. The experience of anyone who uses London Transport, especially during rush hours, shows, as the evidence given to the Committee proved, that London Transport no longer provides an adequate service in all places at all times. We all know of the considerable congestion that occurs at peak hours and we know of the frustration that takes place with the bus services. This situation is accepted by London Transport, which realises that it is falling down in its duty to provide an adequate service. This was admitted by the London Transport Board in its Report for 1963, which stated that
by the end of 1963 the standard of bus services generally had fallen well below what the
travelling public has used to and is entitled to expect.
That was in 1963. As we all know, the situation has deteriorated a good bit since then.
London Transport also has the obligation to pay its way. It has kept out of the "red" in the past by raising fares to cover increased costs, and it hopes to do so until 1967. This is always a tricky question. It is a matter of judgment exactly to what extent fares can be raised without seriously affecting the services. There must be considerable difference of opinion about this. The former Chairman of the Board, Sir Alec Valentine, thought that it might be possible until about 1967 to carry some kind of burden in this direction, but that after that time saturation point would probably be reached and the deficit would increase steeply.
At no time has London Transport made, nor does it anticipate making, a sufficient surplus to pay for the replacement of assets without further borrowing. This means that even in the Board's assessment of London fares, it has faced the problem that it would not be possible to provide sufficient capital from revenue to replace assets. This is forcibly referred to in our Report. Thus, as the Ministry of Transport witness pointed out to the Committee, London Transport has been eating into its capital and, hence, failing to pay its way. It was against this background of the failure of London Transport to comply with either of its main statutory duties that we conducted our inquiry.
There was no lack of good will in appreciating the obligations which had been laid upon London Transport. It was simply the magnitude of the problem that gave rise to our investigation. The object of the Committee was to see what the problem of London Transport was, to examine the causes and to consider what action might be taken in future to overcome these difficulties and restore to the people of London a reliable, speedy, efficient and economic system.
It will readily be appreciated that the Committee found its task of probing and investigating was a very great task. The extent of the problem is such that the matter is not one merely for the Com- mittee or for London Transport, but for the House of Commons to face.
In a metropolitan area of the size of London with many people having to travel long distances to work, with the streets totally unable to carry all the people in private cars, even if the people had them, and with many of the population, especially the elderly and children, dependent upon public transport if they are to travel at all, public transport provides the essential veins and arteries of this tremendous system of travel The House will have to give careful consideration to this problem.
If the lifeblood of this area is to flow freely, as it does not at present, there is, as we all realise from experience of London traffic, the real danger of the whole economic and social life of the community constantly suffering from a series of thrombosis attacks. We have already witnessed this in several areas, both in the centre and at the periphery and in the suburbs of London. This will be a continuing factor which will even increase in density and degree, and it is not in the best interests of the people of the area. These questions must, therefore, be of equal concern to all of us.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has been carrying out a thorough examination of the conditions under which the Board operates. That review, conducted by my right hon. Friend, like that of the investigation by the Committee, has come at an appropriate time. London Transport is in the throes of tremendous change. New tube lines are being built or planned, new automatic equipment is being brought into use, new types of buses are being tried out and a new traffic authority under the Greater London Council has been appointed. In the meantime, the traffic congestion is continuing to grow, and therefore the debate is appropriate to highlight the problem.
Early decisions are required if London Transport is to be enabled to improve its services as fully as possible, and these are decisions not just dependent upon London Transport and upon the Greater London Authority. They are decisions in which the Minister must play a very important part, and I hope that hon. Members will express their views about it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will listen with interest, and, when he intervenes today—because I understand that he will try to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker—I hope that he will make some statement about his line of approach on some of the problems.
The evidence given to the Committee came chiefly from the Chairman, other members and officers of the London Transport Board. Our inquiry gave the Board a valuable opportunity to explain its problems to the Committee and, in consequence of the publication of our Report, to Parliament. It also gave members of the Committee a chance to seek explanations for some of the shortcomings which have been alleged against London Transport that have been brought to their notice. It is only by understanding the causes that solutions can be found.
Much of the evidence was given by Sir Alec Valentine who, until 31st March, was Chairman of the Board. I want, if I may, to pay a tribute to Sir Alec and also to his deputy, Mr. A. H. Grainger. Both of them have since retired. They have had extremely distinguished careers in London Transport and, with all the difficulties that they have encountered, it is a tribute to their devoted public service that even London Transport has been able to continue in the way that it has. I make no apology for that glowing tribute, because it is fully deserved. They have had to cope with a tremendous number of difficulties, and it is right that our appreciation of their services should be on record. Not the least of their labours, particularly in the closing months of their respective careers, was to prepare evidence and submit themselves to the very close scrutiny examination of my Committee.
The new Chairman of the Board, Mr. M. Holmes, has taken over in a very difficult period. His is a difficult task, and it is a distinct challenge to him coming to London Transport as he does, from a totally different background and environment. We wish him well in his task. It is a serious challenge to him, and I sincerely hope and believe that he will acquit himself well.
Our thanks are also due to the many other witnesses who appeared before the Committee. A completely new departure was our invitation to Mr. G. D. Squibb, Q.C., the President of the Transport Tribunal, to appear before us and enlighten us on certain points that are extremely interesting about the relationship of the Transport Tribunal to London Transport itself.
I want to pay a particular tribute to Mr. W. G. Fiske, the leader of the Greater London Authority, and his staff. We appreciated the information that they were able to give us, resulting in our being able to get some line on the approach of that newly-constituted body to the London traffic problem now that it is charged with the task.
What is the task of London Transport? It is carrying something like 3,000 million passengers a year over an area of some 2,000 square miles. That is equivalent to the whole population of the world being carried for one journey each in a year. That is the stupendous task that faces the Board, and it represents three times the number of passengers carried by the whole of British Railways. Because of the very short journeys involved, of necessity it means a high density of traffic, and the density of traffic, especially in the small Central London area, lies at the heart of London Transport's problems.
The shortcomings of the services are revealed to the travelling public by the infrequent bus services, the slow running of buses, the bunching of buses and the overcrowding of trains. It is well that these should be mentioned, so as to realise the practical line that my Committee has taken in its approach. It shows that in those four respects the services are not adequate at the present time, and the Committee was able to measure up some of these inadequacies.
Improved measures to control traffic and parking on the roads of Central London have limited the global increase of traffic growth in the area to some 10 per cent. in three years. However, the success of those measures has led to an even greater congestion in the inner suburbs, where traffic has increased by 25 per cent. in the last three years. The result has been the creation of what the Board describes as "the gluepot ring" of congestion in the suburbs, and the Board has blacklisted some 150 places where buses are regularly delayed for 15 or more minutes per journey.
There is also considerable congestion in country towns such as Tonbridge, Guildford and Aylesbury, and we all remember the famous occasion in Kingston when no bus left the town for two hours due to a complete snarl-up, and other services were up to 90 minutes late.
Another result of traffic congestion is the bunching of buses, often far away from the original trouble area, and that is becoming worse. To take an individual case that stands out in my mind, at Baker Street station buses come into the bus station bunched up because of traffic congestion further up. Police regulations are such that no bus can remain in the station for longer than two minutes, with the result that the bunching of buses has to continue throughout the rest of the journey. I saw another example yesterday in Gower Street. No fewer than seven No. 14 or 73 buses came up bunched together. That is the size of the problem.
Another measure of the inadequacy of the services is the number of miles not operated because badly delayed buses cannot complete scheduled journeys. The evidence put before my Committee was that 3,500 miles of bus operation were lost in that way in 1964 alone. That is twice the loss incurred in 1959. At the same time, over 15,000 miles were lost in 1964 because staff was not available to run the buses. This is a great shortfall from the scheduled services which the Board seeks to operate, and which it claims it would be able to take up if it was able to operate to the full extent. This is the shortfall that is taking place, and about which the Board is fully conscious.
The hon. Gentleman said that 15,000 miles were lost. I think it should be 15 million. The figure of 15,000 is expressed in thousands because this gives a more important percentage figure.
The hon. Gentleman will see the figure which I quoted with regard to mileage. It must be related to that figure.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I make a longer speech than I normally do, and also if I try not to be as political is I usually am, because I am trying faithfully to report the evidence given to the Committee.
The inadequacy of the rail service on the Underground is revealed mainly during the "crush hour" periods. The Board aims at having not more than 40 people standing in a 40-seater carriage on the Underground, but I am sure that many hon. Members have had experience of travelling on the Piccadilly and Central Lines where, instead of 40 people standing, there were about 80 or 90. The Board is fully conscious of this state of affairs. It describes the situation rather mildly by saying that the number of people standing is "excessive", but I could use a much stronger word, as I think many others could.
I think that we must consider some of the causes of this lowering of standards. Staff shortage is the greatest and most deepseated cause of the trouble, and I propose to deal, first, with the shortage of bus drivers. At one time in 1964 the Board could not fill 12 per cent, or more of the established posts for drivers and conductors, and at some garages in West London there was a 30 per cent. shortage. The major wage settlement of June, 1964, following the Phelps Brown Committee's Report, halted the decline a little, but the latest evidence in May of this year was that the numbers would fall again. The Board fears that 1965 will be even worse than 1964, and one can see evidence of this trend today.
There is a genuine shortage of staff on the railways. It is rather interesting to point out that only two men operate a train carrying up to 1,000 passengers during peak hours. If two men do not turn up for duty because of sickness or something like that, owing to the difficulty of getting a relief crew, the train has to be taken out of service, and this of course has a serious effect on scheduled services. The staff shortage on both the railways and the buses has led to increased voluntary overtime, which is a very expensive way of running these services, and creates unreliable services.
Will the hon. Gentleman make clear whether the staff shortage is, in fact, responsible for this tremendous overcrowding on the Piccadilly and Central Lines? My impression is that it is due to the shortage of lines, and that trains are running as fast as possible; and therefore it is not the shortage of staff that is responsible for that difficulty during the peak hours.
If the hon. Gentleman curbs his impatience, he will find that I shall deal with many more contributory factors. Staff shortage is only a contributory factor. Many other things are responsible for the present state of affairs. I warn the hon. Gentleman that I am going to make a long speech, and I hope to deal with the point to which he has referred. The problem is due partly to a staff shortage. I emphasise that staff shortage is a contributory factor, and not the only one.
I want to deal with some of the staff problems which have revealed themselves. There has been, not an undue proportion, but a considerable amount, of industrial unrest among bus crews over a long period. This is not entirely unknown to London Transport. It is a pretty general cause of unrest in the transport world, but this has been conducted over a long period of time, and has revealed itself in bans on overtime. There have not been many official stoppages, but there is no denying that unofficial stoppages have taken place.
The worst example was the unofficial ban on overtime which lasted for seven weeks at the end of 1963. This doubled the mileage lost because of the shortage of staff, and increased by 15 per cent. the scheduled mileage that was not run. It led to a further loss of discontented staff, and it also resulted in the loss of traffic worth £4 million a year, which has never been recovered.
Hon. Members will see that our Report is rather critical of the way in which the Board dealt with this staff situation. The Report is not at all critical of the railway side of the transport system. It is critical of the way in which the bus side of the undertaking has been dealt with.
If hon. Members refer to the Appendix on page 9 of the Board's Report, they will there see grouped together some of the difficulties to which I want to refer. If one looks at the evidence which we received one finds considerably more detail there, but the Appendix to the Report shows that the difficulties began to develop following the rejection by the union in the summer of 1960 of the original bonus scheme.
Since then, right through 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964, there were these recurring staff troubles and difficulties.
The Board complained that while the discussions were taking place further applications for wages or increased bonuses were submitted, which rather upset things. This is inevitable if negotiations continue over a considerable period of time with a view to trying to ease some of the problems which might harm the efficiency of the industry. If no decision is made, one is bound to get these constant upsurges of demand for increased wages.
I think that the Board, which had these difficulties brought to its notice so forcefully in 1960, should have shown a little more energy and drive, and should have got together with the union to hammer out some better consultative machinery. I do not put it any higher than that. On the railways side it worked very well, and here I must compliment the Board because on the whole it has the reputation of being a very good employer. It has failed in this respect. The Committee visited the Chiswick Works, at which there is a bus research and maintenance depôt, and was very impressed with what was going on, and especially with its staff relations.
London Transport is not wholly to blame in this connection; there are two sides to this question. As an old and ardent trade unionist, I realise what a conservative line of approach many of our trade unions adopt in these matters, and I feel that the trade unions have been as neglectful as has London Transport in the matter of staff consultation. It was not until May of last year, during the time that the Committee was carrying on its deliberations, that a real step forward was made both by the trade unions and London Transport towards establishing better consultative machinery.
This step forward having taken place, I hope that it will be reflected in improved relations, and will resolve some of the trouble that has been encountered. But the trouble arising in connection with the travelling public in London will not be resolved until there is a considerable increase in the staff of London Transport and a cure is found for various other deficiencies, so that an adequate service is once again provided.
No difficulty has been experienced in increasing the productivity of rail workers. A third cause of difficulty has arisen out of the conditions under which the Board is forced to operate as a result of the changing pattern of traffic caused by the movement of population out of Central London, coupled with an increase in the number of jobs available in Central London. That has led to an increase of traffic in the rush hours.
The Board has lost much of its Saturday revenue because of the five-day working week, and owing to the growing number of private cars it has lost much of its commuter traffic during the peak hours, especially in the evenings and at weekends. As a result there has been a fall of over one-third in the passenger traffic carried since 1954, most of which loss has been borne by the buses.
As bus services have become less reliable there has been a considerable swing towards rail travel. This has compensated for the loss of rail traffic at off-peak hours. The loss of weekend traffic has been especially heavy. A large part of this loss has been to private transport. Between 1954 and 1964 the number of buses entering Central London at the morning peak has fallen by 25 per cent., whereas the number of private cars coming in has risen by 84 per cent. and we know that a private car probably carries only one passenger, compared to the 72 or 74 passengers carried by a bus. In this period the total number of vehicles rose by 44 per cent., but the total number of passengers carried by London Transport fell by 10 per cent. This 10 per cent. of commuter traffic now travels by car, and is revealed not in the number of persons carried, but by the choking up of our streets by motor cars.
Another cause of the Board's difficulties are the restrictions imposed upon it by the authorities. Successive Ministers of Transport and the Transport Tribunal have prevented it from raising fares to what it thought an appropriate level. Only on the last occasion was it compensated by the Minister when a restriction was imposed.
It has suffered from delay in obtaining new assets that it needed to provide an adequate service, especially in regard to the Victoria Line. The Victoria Line extension is a sad story. It was delayed by the B.T.C. and the Minister for eight years. If we read the evidence we find that the Victoria Line scheme was recommended by a working party in 1949. A report of the British Transport Commission was put before the then Minister at the time, and by 1953 the Minister had agreed that this route should be the first in the line in 1954. London Transport submitted a full appreciation of the scheme to the Commission, and in 1956 the Commission allocated £500,000—later increased to £1 million—for experimental tunnelling. That is how we arrive at the position of the Victoria Line today. It is all there in the evidence. This is a serious chapter of delay in dealing with a problem that was evident to everyone, and I have some criticisms even about the situation as it will be when the line is completed.
Does the hon. Member agree that the Report indicates that in 1962 the cost was estimated at approximately £56 million, whereas today it will probably be over £90 million, as a result of these delays?
The evidence submitted totally refutes the wild statements made from outside as to the effects of the delay. I am speaking from memory, but I believe that the original estimate, when permission was given for the Victoria Line to proceed, was about £56 million. Since then it has been decided to embrace certain automatic ticket collecting stations, which have increased the cost by £10 million or so. There is also a slight increase due to interest charges. Generally speaking, however, the original estimate for the building of this line remains at it was. There has been much wild newspaper talk. I referred to the report that appeared in the Daily Mail when we debated the London Transport Orders a few days ago, when I was in a position to quote the exact figures. They indicate how false that report was. The staff operating and other difficulties which have frustrated London Transport in carrying out its statutory duty have had a damaging financial effect. The Board has made small surpluses in recent years, but not enough to replace assets without increased borrowings. On the basis of present fares, it is expected to run a deficit of over £8 million by 1967. Its accountancy is very interesting.
Even if fares were increased to the maximum which it considers commercially practicable, the Board does not believe that it could achieve more than half its financial objective of £4 million a year. The financial structure of London Transport was expected to produce a surplus of £20 million over five years. It has now fallen short by at least half of obtaining this surplus and as time goes on it will not be able to provide anything like that figure.
The Board will run into the red and it will be the same sorry story as on the railways. The Committee found little scope in the near future for economies consistent with attempts to provide an adequate service. More money could be obtained from increased fares, but this would undoubtedly lead to greater losses of traffic.
Summarising all these problems, therefore, it seems that, in present conditions, it is doomed to fail in both its statutory duties: to provide an adequate service and to pay its way. In a number of ways it is faced with the vicious circle of worsening services, especially on the buses, leading to loss of traffic, loss of revenue and increased use of private motor cars. These lead to further worsening of services.
Loss of revenue makes it harder still to pay bus crews enough to overcome staff shortages which have eaten into the heart of the undertaking. Unless there is more adequate remuneration of the bus crews, a constant drifting away from the transport service will result.
These difficulties and frustrations are revealed in the Board's Report and Accounts. The Board considers, in effect, that it is in some ways the prisoner of its own misfortunes. However, difficult though the situation may be in present circumstances, the prospects for the future appear bright. We must face the fact that Parliament will have to make some decision on this.
Having analysed these problems, the Committee next considered what action was needed to improve the Board's fortunes and the London traveller's prospects. The Committee concluded that, given certain conditions, London Transport should be able to provide an efficient, economic and adequate service for which the travelling public would be willing to pay. I will enumerate some of these conditions. First, buses must be given room to operate. The primary responsibility in this respect does not lie on the Board, but on the Greater London Council, the police and the other traffic authorities which have to be brought into the picture, but the Board has pressed its views vigorously on the responsible authorities.
In general, basing its view on experience in other countries, the Board has concentrated on emphasising the need for buses as the greatest carriers. In particular, it calls for about 230 miles of peak hour clearways, reserved lanes for buses at certain places, more bus bays, prohibition of parking at bus stops, better siting of bus stops, the extension to the suburbs of traffic engineering schemes which have proved successful in the heart of London, and it would welcome restriction by edict, pricing, or limiting parking space, on the use of motor cars in Central London.
If priority and assistance were given to buses in this way, the Board believes that a "virtuous spiral" of improve services, attracting more passengers, reducing private traffic and leading to cheaper operation, would be the result. This is not popular, because it would mean restrictions on motor cars. It is a courageous Government which will put further restrictions on motor cars, but the present traffic tendency will increase so much that this decision will have to be taken—not willingly, not deliberately, but the public transport service will automatically be choked up and unable to run unless something is done.
I want to pay a tribute to the Greater London Council, whose reaction was most encouraging. The evidence which its representatives gave to the Committee showed that they were determined to do all they could to help London Transport, while having regard to all other interests. It was obvious that improved arrangements were being worked out for London Transport's association with the planning position of the G.L.C. One of the first results of these new arrangements was the recent report of a Committee under the chairmanship of the Greater London Council's Director of Highways and Transportation, on which the Metropolitan Police and London Transport were also represented.
The report, which has now been accepted, supported London Transport's major proposals for helping the free movement of buses. It included more peak hour clearways, parking meter zones in the "glue-pot ring" suburbs and more one-way schemes designed to help the buses. The report is welcome as a sign of a much more vigorous line of aproach of which there are reports in today's newspapers.
London Transport needs the tools to do the job on road and rail services, and it is up to this House to provide it with those tools. The Committee welcomed the fact that more and bigger buses and more one-man-operated buses are being introduced. The proposed one-man-operated "standee" buses should provide relief in rush hours. We regret the delay before these buses can be brought into operation. We feel that they will make a considerable contribution during rush hours. The union has agreed to cooperate in the use of new buses and this should result in a marked improvement in the productivity record.
We particularly welcomed plans for automatic train operation to be introduced for the first time on the Victoria Line, with only one operator on each train. This is an important development. If present experiments are successful, the automatic ticket control, which will virtually eliminate the need for ticket collectors, will be introduced on the Victoria Line and extended to the whole Underground system in the 1970s. It appears that the long overdue provision of more ticket machines and change-giving machines is to go ahead. The latter machines are very expensive, but the Board is fully alive to this requirement.
In all the schemes I have mentioned the Board is to a great extent leading the world. It holds out prospects of large-scale economies. In a congested city like London, with dense movements of traffic at peak periods, these are the only efficient ways of moving masses of people. At the same time, they must be given priority on the road. We must face this—none of us likes it but something must be done.
The long-awaited Victoria Line is nearing completion, although it has been haunted by delays, which I mentioned earlier. Plans are being prepared for other lines. The Aldwych-Waterloo, the southward extension of the Victoria Line to Brixton, the new Fleet Line running to the south-east, are all representative of the type and scope of the Board's plans for the future.
It is important that we consider the Railway Plan for London, which was prepared by a group of experts for the British Railways Board and the London Transport Board. We regard it as a major contribution which could help to meet London's traffic problems. The plan was prepared early in the year, with Sir Alec Valentine in the chair. When the Board came before the Committee, Sir Alec told us that he regretted that the Ministry of Transport had refused permission to publish the plan and discuss it with other people. When we examined the Ministry's witness about this I confess that the Committee was seriously disturbed by his attitude, for—as will be seen in question and answer No. 1594—that witness stated:
It is quite true the Minister thought it would be better that it should not he published at this stage and, if I may put it rather crudely, the reason is that … this document … is not more than half baked.
He gave the impression that an inferior type of person or people had been responsible for producing the plan, but these were experts appointed by the two Boards. It is one of those cases where Whitehall knew better than the experts, and we deplored it. It will be seen in paragraph 480 that the Committee concluded:
Your Committee have studied the Railway Plan … and … think it a clear assessment of the future of the Underground and useful guidance on what should be done. They were surprised to hear the Ministry's witness refer to 'the relatively modest level' at which the Plan had been prepared and described the Plan as 'not more than half baked'".
We went on to point out that they desired collaboration for which the Minister had asked, and our remarks read:
Your Committee find the cavalier attitude of the Ministry's witness regrettable.
I do not like to say this because it might be alleged that I am making an attack on a civil servant who is not able to defend himself. However, in this case it was the civil servant who attacked the experts who had been appointed to investigate these matters and it was he who referred to the plan which they produced as being nothing but half baked.
I have noticed the hon. Gentleman's remarks on this point and, if fortunate to be called later, I will refer to them. Does it not seem perfectly reasonable, if one asks a witness a question, for him to give a frank reply? Surely it would help if the Railway Plan were published so that we could decide for ourselves whether or not it is half-baked?
We would not have minded the comments if there was a clear indication that the plan was half baked. However, there was no evidence to that effect. The witness made a general and sweeping observation and our difficulty was that the Ministry had refused to allow the plan to be published for people to see whether or not it was half baked. It was merely when considering the question of publication that the reference was made. The Committee, on the other hand, welcomed the idea of new tubes in that it held out some hope of solving the congestion on the existing tube lines.
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the reference of the Ministry's witness to these experts indicated that the experts were of a relatively modest level of expertise, which is the sort of slighted insult which is more grievous than a direct attack?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, but I had better continue with my remarks.
We hope that some progress is being made, although we are not altogether happy about the closeness of the liaison which exists between the Board and the Ministry about these plans. For example, the Board seems ready to start work on either the Aldwych or Brixton schemes by 1966 or early 1967, while the Ministry takes a far less optimisic view. Approval has not been given for any new line; and I understand that the Brixton scheme has only just been included in the Board's programme, but to be started in 1968 and not at an earlier date.
We have ben considerably concerned about the Victoria Line extension because the members of the Committee want to ensure that the labour force which has been assembled for that project and the capital equipment—a great deal of machinery—engaged on the job is available to commence work on other projects immediately the Victoria extension is completed. From some of the evidence given to us, we were not completely satisfied that this quick shift of manpower and machinery will take place.
It is no use people saying that when the Victoria scheme comes to an end there will be other tunnelling activities in other parts of the country for the team of men and the machinery to do. This is tommyrot. While tunnelling is required in London, these assets should be kept in being and immediately put to work on other schemes when the Victoria extension has been completed. I trust that any obstacles which are in the way of this happening will be cleared aside by my right hon. Friend so that the important task of developing the underground railway system can go ahead.
I regret addressing the House at such length, but I am sure that hon. Members will agree that we are discussing extremely important matters. In any case, London Transport has never been investigated in this way previously and this investigation has highlighted certain difficulties.
The subject of car parks being provided on the periphery is a type of new tool, if I may put it that way, which the Board needs at suburban underground stations. Such car parks could be valuable in persuading car drivers to park well away from the centre and go into London by tube, so reducing traffic congestion. However, progress and planning has so far been disappointing. Nevertheless, the House will welcome what the Board has done and the signs are that more may be done, particularly with multi-storey car parks.
The Minister could do much to encourage the Board by introducing legislation to enable it to offer full garage facilities, and so to attract custom. There are certain restrictions which prevent this form of development. London Transport could build multi-storey car parks of this sort and make them commercial propositions, but I understand that all has not been well when the Board has sought permission to use the ground floors of such establishments to give a full garage service, with the provision of petrol pumps and so on. I trust that my right hon. Friend will do everything in his power to clear any obstacles out of the way and to make this development possible. If legislation is required, I trust that he will introduce it.
Improved labour relations is a condition which must be satisfied if London Transport is to operate successfully. The continuation of good staff relations and the acceptance of measures to increase efficiency and productivity are matters of vital importance. We all realise that wages and conditions on the underground system are tied to those of the general railway system, and it can be argued whether this is a good or a bad thing, and whether it should be dealt with in isolation.
The same position arises with the buses. It is argued that any improvement in the wages or conditions of bus crews takes them outside the general employment structure of bus systems in other cities. That is an aspect that must be faced. We have this terrific shortage of staff and this enormous lost mileage, and some negotiations and discussions with the trade unions should be undertaken to see whether something can be done. The avenue of progress was opened up by the Phelps Brown settlement. That work constituted a breakthrough. It should be still more urgently followed up, particularly on the bus side, where the real weaknesses are. Reason for hope is afforded by the establishment of the consultative machinery to which I have referred.
In the light of these opportunities for improved staff relations, the Board should be able to go ahead with more automation, should be able to review the pattern of routes, and achieve optimum service from the available staff, and get better recruitment and retention of staff. It should be able to take full advantage of the new and improved conditions, but it must show more foresight and drive than has sometimes been the case. It is quite clear from the evidence in the Second Report that the Board continues to seek a settlement on productivity and efficiency.
These are not easy matters to deal with, but with the remarkably good reputation the Board has as an employer I feel satisfield that much could be done, given the energy and drive—and, perhaps, the appointment to the Board of a person with special responsibility for staff relations might be worth considering. The Board feels that the present allocation of the responsibility for staff relations matters between the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman is sufficient, but the suggestion might be considered.
For many years the Board has not always been a free agent. It has been under the control of the B.T.C., and the B.T.C. had a difficult task in appropriately allocating available capital. Consequently, the Victoria Line might have been delayed rather longer. We have to face all these things.
It will be seen from the Report that, unfortunately, we had a vote in the Committee. This arose on the fares issue. London Transport said that on a given date fares must be increased or the undertaking would run still further into the red; that the Minister of Transport had made a request for fares not to be increased, and that for some three months that request had been fulfilled. At the same time, London Transport wanted to know from the Minister who would reimburse it for its losses during that period.
While the Committee was sitting, I put down a Written Question, not by virtue of being Chairman of the Committee but because I am chairman of my own party's transport group. I asked the Minister what he proposed to do, and my right hon. Friend informed us of the subsidy he intended to give. That created considerable feeling amongst members of the Committee. Some of them felt that the Minister ought not to have made the announcement in the way he did; that because we were considering the whole matter, the Committee should have been informed first. Frankly, I totally disagree with that point of view. I think that the Minister did exactly the right thing in making the announcement to the House.
The feeling created revealed itself in a vote in the Committee on the subject, and I very much regret to have to end my observations by saying that I do not think that the vote was on the merits of the case but was more a question of the political animal raising its head within the Committee. This I deplore. I can understand that hon. Members opposite, having had control of this Committee for so many years and now losing it, may feel mighty sore, but I hope that they will not follow this type of procedure, which brings in a political slant. The value of the Report of the Committee is that it should be unanimous in all essentials. By following those lines, the Committee performs a most useful service to the House.
In seconding the Amendment, I first congratulate the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) on being the first Labour Chairman of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, and therefore being the leader responsible for laying this very valuable Report before the House. With a very great deal of what he had to say, I agree, but he will not be altogether surprised if my version of his last point is a little different from his.
Taking the Report as a whole, I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman's comment that the London Transport Board is at present facing a mounting tide of difficulties, and is failing to hold its own both on quality of service and on its financial obligations as now defined. There are two other parties besides London Transport. One is the Ministry of Transport and the other is the Greater London Council—and probably some of the surrounding councils—and both have responsibilities if we are successfully to meet the Board's problems.
I should like to put on the record my belief that the life of any great city like London rests today squarely on its public transport system. There is no difference between the two sides on that subject. Any doubts anyone may have had on this point must have been completely cleared away by American experience. America has had the universal motor car with it for 20 or 30 years longer than we have, and the Americans have tried to run some of their great cities without a public transport system. The classic case is Los Angeles, which has built the most wonderful system of urban highways and freeways ever seen in the world's history, and has allowed the public transport system to disappear. They are still back in square one. There is still most gigantic congestion and they have not solved the problem. No city today can live without a first-class public transport system.
Fortunately for us in London we are in the reverse position to that of the nineteenth century when we pioneered the railways and they could learn from our mistakes. They pioneered motor transport and we can learn from their mistakes. London Transport is still a first-class system. Despite the existence of the weaknesses in London Transport to which the hon. Member has referred, they are still marginal and can be corrected.
There are three major causes for the deterioration of the service in London Transport. The first is the presence of the universal motor car which causes congestion for the bus service and upsets time schedules. The second is the labour problem to which the hon. Member referred fully. This depletes the service on the one hand and has inhibited the introduction of labour-saving systems for buses on the other. The third is the financial problem of rising costs of the service necessitating increased fares, which in turn lose traffic, and the result is a reduction in frequency which reduces the quality of the service and again loses traffic. This is the vicious spiral to which reference is made.
The first point about the congestion is mainly outside the control of London Transport, although it is up to the service to bring home both to the Ministry and the Greater London Council its necessities in this matter. They are the major authorities responsible. In central London progress in improved traffic movement has been noticeable and entirely praiseworthy in the last few years. There has been a comprehensive application of the parking meter system which gets control of the parked car so that traffic arteries can be preserved for moving traffic. On top of that, a number of traffic engineers are engaged on one or two very valuable major capital construction works such as the Park Lane, Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch projects, all of which enable traffic to move more quickly in central London.
The hon. Member also referred to the "glue-pot ring" outside central London. The Minister smiles at this happily for he is no longer responsible for this extremely difficult task. It falls on the shoulders of the Greater London Council, which is very vigorously attacking the problem and has my warmest support. I am convinced that it must give priority to public transport in that ring and throughout the area under its control. Probably local authorities beyond the G.L.C. area must also do that.
It is possible that there may be further ideas on priorities for public transport. The hon. Member referred to clearways on main traffic arteries which are extremely valuable and I entirely support that suggestion. There could also be reserved lanes marked off for public transport only. In some cities abroad, such as Palermo, I have even seen such a bus lane with buses travelling in the opposite direction to the main traffic stream. That seemed a little confusing for visitors, but they had to get used to it quickly or they would be mowed down. This responsibility is squarely on the shoulders first of the Greater London Council and then other local authorities. I hope that the Minister will urge that those local authorities should push on as fast they can to establish effectively control of the parked vehicle, first by the parking meter systems and secondly by traffic engineering schemes giving priority to public transport.
I come to the second point which falls squarely on the shoulders of London Transport—labour relations. I agree with most of what the hon. Member said on that question. This, I think, is the weakest point in London Transport's record because for years it has been upsetting the bus service. The rail service is good and the labour relationship there is satisfactory, but in the bus service over recent years we have been getting an increasing effect of upset services and hardship to the travelling public. As we say in the Report, this has literally been "eating at the heart of the organisation".
There are several reasons for this. First there is the chronic staff shortage. Bus staffs over the last few years have fallen short by 5 per cent. to 15 per cent. It has to be realised that the shortage of bus drivers is twice as bad as the shortage of conductors. This is very serious indeed. It is worst in the West and North-West. It will be realised how bad it is when it is seen that there is a shortage of up to 30 per cent. in one garage. When the service is as depleted as that it ceases to be a service for the travelling public who have to wait not 15 but 20, 25 or even 30 minutes for a bus. The train service staff position is not so bad, nothing like so bad as the bus service.
It must be said that London Transport has been enterprising in its recruiting. Recruitment from overseas has been extremely well done by bringing in labour from the West Indies and Ireland. The service has recruited over 5,000 staff from those sources and on the whole they have fitted in extremely well.
The black spot is in labour unrest. Here I think London Transport has failed. Its record of stoppages, official or unofficial, overtime bans and so on, has caused a great deal of hardship from time to time to the travelling public. It has also considerably injured London Transport finances. London Transport told us that it estimated that in 1963 the loss due to the overtime ban was £4 million.
These stoppages and interferences drive away a margin of travellers who are then lost altogther. Secondly, perhaps even more important, they drive away some of the best employees who get fed up with employment where so many disturbances come about, and find jobs elsewhere. This is thoroughly bad for everyone. We have the picture of the trade unions, steadfastly over the years until quite recently opposing labour-saving systems such as the one-man bus which has been delayed for six or seven years because the union was not willing to co-operate. This is utterly illogical in the face of a staff shortage which, even if all the labour-saving schemes were adopted, would still be severe. It is disturbing to find a staff shortage which is ruining the service and on the other hand to find that the trade unions will not agree to use labour-saving methods.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West referred to the Board's attempt in 1959 to introduce an efficiency bonus scheme. It fizzled out, because, on the one hand, the Ministry was rather cool about the costs. The B.T.C. was also cool about the costs; it said that it must pay for itself. The trade unions said that there was not enough in it for them. So the whole thing gradually folded up. It was not until we got the Phelps Brown Report in 1963–64, which amounted to a complete revaluation of wages and accounted for an average increase of 23 per cent., that the trade unions agreed that this was a fair settlement and gave a prospect of a fresh start, with co-operation on labour saving ideas and the modernisation and productivity that everybody wanted. Concrete results are still to be achieved.
Our Report has been critical of the Board in this respect. The Board's reply to our Report has been rather to reject our criticism as being unjustified. I must place my impression squarely before the House. I believe that in this matter the Minister of Transport has a responsibility, because, after all, he has to find the money for what the Board wants to do. The trade unions have a very big responsibility to co-operate. But at the end of the day it is the Board itself which must have the ultimate responsibility. It is responsible for management. In the whole field of industry and commerce as we survey it nationally from here, we see the picture that good management somehow finds a way. Everybody has labour troubles from time to time. There are misunderstandings and frictions. When it has labour troubles, good management finds a way of solving the problem by leadership, imagination and courage. It finds a way of winning the confidence of the men and getting their good will and co-operation in whatever the proposition may be.
Of course this costs money. It is obvious, looking back on it, that the attempt in 1959 offered nothing like sufficient attraction in money to the trade unions. When the Phelps-Brown Report came out eventually, it cost £7½ million a year. It ought to have been done years before. Here the Board must accept a basic responsibility. It should have banged the table in 1959–60 to the Minister of Transport of the day and insisted on being given the necessary elbow room to make this settlement. The Board should have insisted that it had no prospect, unless it could make a generous settlement, of ever winning the men's co-operation. This the Board must have if it is to introduce all the new devices which will save labour and make better conditions for everybody. At the same time, those in the Ministry of Transport must also take some responsibility because they had not the vision to see that this was necessary, but it was something which they found at the end of the day they had to face.
I extend my very best wishes to the new Chairman, because he has a tremendously challenging job. He must make staff relations his first priority He must make a personal study of the question. He must find out exactly what is wrong there still. Let us be quite clear. They have not yet got all the new productivity schemes working. When the Chairman goes to the Minister of Transport, whether it is the right hon. Gentleman or who-ever it may be, the Minister must support him and ensure that London Transport gets a new deal in labour relations so that the Board has a basis on which to secure the good will and co-operation of its bus staffs right through.
All the promising technical improvements which are there already or which are about to come along in the future—the one-man bus, driverless trains, automatic ticket collection, and so on—depend on the Board's being able to get the good will and co-operation of the unions. That must be won. The gaol must be that over the next five or ten years we shall get an increasingly mechanised operation with a smaller but well-paid, contented and co-operative staff. The prospect is there. It could be done.
Having said some rather critical things about the bus staff, I must say something in their favour. I want to pay them a sincere tribute. I am constantly lost in admiration at the skill of the bus driver and at his good manners. He is far better mannered than any private car driver. The conductors do a tremendous job in very strenuous circumstances. Somehow a way must be found to make the whole team content.
The third cause is the financial problem. The financial objective under the 1961 White Paper was defined as a fair discharge of the statutory financial obligations of the nationalised industry. In my view, it is a very good device, because it then gives the industry concerned freedom to get on with the job, with minimum interference from the Ministries concerned.
In 1963 London Transport Board agreed a financial target of £4 million a year for five years. As the House has been told, the Board is already £4 million short on the two years it has been operating. It looks as if by the end of the period the Board will be some £15 million to £20 million short. This is a serious matter for the Board to fall down on, because this is the definition of its statutory financial obligation. The fact is that a target of £4 million a year was totally unrealistic. It is a wonder to me that the Board ever agreed to it. Only six months later in 1963 the Phelps Brown inquiry was set up and the Board knew that it had a major wages settlement hanging over its head which must cost millions of pounds a year. Yet it blandly agreed to £4 million a year as being its financial target.
Once again, the Minister of Transport and the Treasury must take some responsibility for pressing this on London Transport, but London Transport must take a clear view of what its interests are and must state its view clearly. I hope that the Minister of Transport will take the view of his relationship with the new Board that he wants it to tell him clearly what its interests are and what it wants to do. Then he will know where he is and the Board will know where it is. It is hopeless if the Board agrees to something which is impossible of accomplishment and then a few months later has to say that it is sorry but it cannot do it.
So we come to the Board's trading position. It is true that the Board has only limited scope for improving its trading position. It has rising wages, rising costs, and falling traffics. There is scope for some economies on the running side, but only if the Board can get trade union cooperation. There is also, on the revenue side, scope for increases in fares. The evidence we had on this was a little confused. The Ministry's evidence was pretty forthright, that fares could be increased sufficiently to cover rising costs. The Board's view was more cautious. The Board took the view that the increases should not be too much, nor too often. The Board was very nervous about losing more traffic.
Nevertheless, the Board told us that it intended to announce last April an increase in fares which would have come into operation in May and which would have brought in an extra £5½ million a year. It was at this point that the Minister first intervened—the intervention to which the hon. Member for Newcastle- upon-Tyne, West referred. The Minister's first request was that there should be a two months postponement of the Board's announcement of fare increases until the end of June whilst the Minister looked at its position. The Board agreed to that.
On 23rd June the Minister made a second intervention and asked the Board not to increase fares for the whole of 1965. At the same time he told the Board that it would have a subsidy of £3–85 million which would cover the loss as a result of not increasing the fares and that during this period he would complete his review of the Board's services.
On the Select Committee Resolution to which the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West referred, I must make the point that the action taken by the Minister is without precedent. There is no precedent for a Minister taking action on a nationalised industry when a Select Committee has the matter before it. I know that both sides of the House hope that the Minister will not take such action again. It has unfortunate results. First, it is bound to prejudice objective consideration. There is bound to be a tendency for those on the Minister's side to support him and for hon. Members on the other side to be critical of him, and this immediately destroys the objective consideration which is the tradition of the Committee and which is essential to make any sense of its Reports.
It also prejudices the Select Committee system which depends on a number of hon. Members giving their time, energy and patience freely for months to make these reports for the benefit of the House. Hon. Members from neither side of the House will be willing to give their services if there is a chance that Ministers are likely to step in across the very material which they are considering and take decisions on a matter on which that Committee was finally going to make a report. And this is at a time when we have great pressure from hon. Members opposite for an increase in the Select Committee system in the belief that it might be of additional service to the House. This Resolution, critical of the Minister, was stirred not by political motive but by the feeling that the Minister's action was not in the best interests of the House. That is why we put it down.
To return to the financial problem, I believe that the financial objective must be reviewed. I can sympathise with the Minister's study of it but I would have preferred that he should have left the Board for this year to make a fares increase which was commercially sound, and he could then have completed his financial review and in due course put forward whatever reconstruction he thought was necessary. I am sure that it is essential to maintain the Board's responsibility for its commercial management and its responsibility for the trading risk of the industry. In trade and business the management lives with the trading risk, and when they are finding it difficult to make both ends meet it is surprising how the spur of need stimulates men to be more resourceful and energetic to find ways of solving their problems.
Anything which tends to reduce that final sense of responsibility which managements must have if they are to succeed is not in the best interests of a nationalised industry—in this case the Transport Board. I feel strongly that all nationalised industries must bear their share of the nation's trading risk. If we ask the taxpayers to make up the difference, somebody else has to earn that extra profit in their business. At the end of the clay we as a country can survive and maintain our standard of life only by our trade with the world and only if we are able to sell a greater value of exports sufficient to buy our imports. We as a nation have a trading risk with the world and this risk can best be borne only when the maximum number of industries, both large and small, are bearing their fair share of it. It is of primary importance to the national interest that every nationalised industry should be made to bear its share of the nation's trading risk. Therefore, I think that the ad hoc subsidy, which I hope is temporary, is the worst means of all—
I can accept that the Board has a special position, and it is because it has that special position that the right hon. Gentleman is providing capital for it. It is because of this special position and the difficulties that I would be in favour of a capital reconstruction which would make the finances manageable. I would say that the Board's present financial objective is unrealistic, but it is of basic importance that the reconstruction of the Board's financial position should be done in such a way that it will leave firmly on the shoulders of the Board the responsibility for the commercial management and the trading risk of the concern. I am anxious to see that there is not a steep fares increase. I recognise that there is not the scope in fares increases to cover the increase in capital charges which will fall on the Board. When the Victoria Line comes into operation, for instance, there will be an additional £3 million to £4 million capital charge there.
The right approach is reconstruction of both existing and future capital charges so that a proper financial objective and a manageable one can be found for the Board. The Board should then be told firmly, "This is your responsibility to manage it and make it viable within these limits." I fully recognise that now is the time when this must be done.
Who pays? Is it the Government, the taxpayer or local government? I have put the point before to the right hon. Gentleman that if it is to be the taxpayer generally, there is a direct conflict between that and the Government's general regional planning policy, which is right and wise, of encouraging development in the regions where there are spare resources for development and at the same time putting the brake on the development of London with such things as the ban on new office buildings. This is essential to make any sense of the economic planning of the country.
Therefore, it would be completely illogical to ask the taxpayers throughout the country to make London Transport cheaper, and therefore make London more attractive, at their expense. It would be a complete reversal of the regional planning policy. The right answer is that the Greater London Council and the surrounding local authorities might be asked to work out a suitable formula for bearing the greater part of the cost among themselves. I accept that the Treasury should bear some part, but it is only reasonable that the local government areas concerned, who are the beneficiaries, should pay the greater part. I hope that when the Minister intervenes he will be able to tell us the result of his review and I earnestly hope that it will be along the lines I have suggested.
I conclude by saying that London Transport is still a very fine service, and it is possible to achieve a virtuous as opposed to a vicious spiral. Three elements are needed for that. The first is a more vigorous and independent London Transport Board with a rather more vigorous leadership. Secondly, the attitude of the Ministry of Transport needs to be rather more objective and less paternalistic towards the Transport Board, bearing in mind that it has immensely difficult labour relations problems which will be solved only by men of imagination, courage and enterprise, and that if we want men like that, we must give them the independence to run their own show on their own as far as possible. That must be encouraged by the Ministry's attitude. Thirdly, the Greater London Council and the surrounding authorities should give that priority to the public transport system which will enable the buses to move more freely.
If these three things can be done, we can change the alarming vicious spiral which the Board is now in, to a virtuous spiral, to the benefit of the great population of the Greater London Area as well as the Board itself.
The right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) is very knowledgeable on matters concerning the nationalised industries. He has served on the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries for many years and the whole House listens with great respect to what he has to say on these subjects. On most occasions what he says is unexceptionable and, personally, I agree with a great deal, but not all, of his comments today.
He was wholly wrong to criticise the Minister for taking action about London Transport at a critical moment while the Select Committee was sitting. He seemed to think that while a Select Com- mittee was deliberating whatever the crisis in a nationalised industry might be, the Minister responsible should not act because that would inhibit the Select Committee's examination. I cannot accept that point of view and I am sure that the House would be unprepared to do so. It seems to me to be nonsense.
I warmly congratulate the Select Committee as a whole and its Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell), on producing this wholly admirable and most informative Report. Each new Report which we get from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries is better than the last. Personally, I find even greater value in the appendices than in the recommendations. However, having read all the cross-examination of the witnesses and the appendices, I find it difficult to agree with some of the Select Committee's conclusions. They were unjustifiably critical of many of the actions of London Transport, which does not seem to me to be lacking in "foresight or drive," as the Committee suggests. The Board seems to be a body of exceptionally imaginative, resourceful and enterprising men, who look ahead and develop new techniques.
Of course there is always a natural tendency for a Select Committee set up to examine a nationalised industry to have to find out a few things which are wrong and point them out. No organisation is perfect. But, on the whole, London Transport is an extraordinarily efficient organisation full of enterprise and drive, which has sometimes been frustrated, and it should be congratulated on its achievements.
I am also very doubtful about the stricture levelled against the Board concerning its relationship with its staff. It is true that there has been staff trouble, and it is difficult for an outsider to say where the responsibility lies. However, I know that the Board's relations with the railway unions are exceedingly good and the unions have a high regard for the individuals who deal with their problems. That relationship could not be better. In view of that, I cannot believe that London Transport, admittedly so good with one union, is so desperately bad with another, and I think that the fault probably lies to some extent on both sides. I see no reason why the Board should be criticised for its attitude to the unions and for its relationships with the staff.
What the Report does exceedingly well —and it is on this subject that I want to speak very briefly—is to point out clearly the intolerable position in which London Transport finds itself in trying to carry out its dual obligation in providing an adequate service, an obligation which British Railways does not have. When the 1962 legislation was in Committee we tried to insert the word "adequate" in relation to British Railways, but we were voted down.
London Transport has the dual obligation of providing an adequate transport service for the people of London and of paying its way. The Treasury has interpreted paying its way as meaning that it must make at least £4 million. It is time that the powers that be took a realistic view of the problems of the nationalised industries, for London Transport is in the same position as the railways. They always considered that the railways would pay handsomely in five or ten years' time, when every realistic person knew that they could not and would not. To try to make London Transport make a profit of £4 million when the existing conditions are hound to deteriorate in the coming years is ridiculous and exceedingly harmful to the welfare of London. Transport and Londoners as a whole.
If I have a further criticism of the Report it is that while it brings out the facts, particularly if one reads the evidence of witnesses, the Committee was not emphatic enough in saying that this state of affairs must come to an end, and quickly. What has been happening for a long time is that there has been a drift in the situation and the financial problems of the Board have been dealt with on an ad hoc basis. Improvised rescue operations have been undertaken at particular moments of crisis, but there has been no broad policy on how to deal with the problem.
When the crisis arose in the spring of this year, the Board said that it ought to put up fares to some extent, but the Government jumped in, presumably with- out having had long enough to think about the matter, to say that it would subsidise the Board if it did not put up fares while the Government thought about the situation and "about the conditions in which London Transport operates". But everyone knows the conditions in which London Transport operates, and if the Ministry wanted to know those conditions, it had all the facts and figures and opinions at its disposal.
The Government wanted to think out a policy. That was all right as long as they did not take too long to do so. What I am pleading for today is that the Ministry of Transport and the Treasury should no longer continue to look at the problem in rose-coloured blinkers as in the past—if blinkers can be rose coloured—but should take a realistic view of the situation and devise a sensible solution based on facts. The facts are well known. The buses, under present conditions, cannot pay. With the increasing number of cars on the road the services are worse and worse. If fares are increased to the extent necessary to make them pay, the only thing that would happen is that people would leave the buses and travel in cars. This is a fact of life which applies not only to London but to every major city in the world. It is fact of life No. I which the Government ought to recognise.
Fact No. 2 is that whatever the difficulties, we have to have a good transport service in London. Everyone who uses a car wants to go by public transport now and again, and a big city without an effective public transport service is as out of date and ridiculous as a city without an effective water or drainage system, or electricity supply. It is absolutely essential for the welfare of a big capital city such as ours. We have to have it. If we are going to have a good bus service it has to be paid for somehow or other. It cannot be paid for by increasing the fares. It is ridiculous to ask London Transport to pay its way and thereby inhibit it from undertaking the various developments which it ought to undertake in order to provide an adequate transport service.
In addition to this, we have the developing situation on the underground. Every big city in the world which can afford it is saying that the best way to avoid congestion, or one of the most important ways, is to take traffic off the ground and put it underground. Underground systems are being constructed in a very large number of big cities throughout the world. We know that the underground loses money. The more London Transport succeeds in serving London by building a large number of undergrounds, the greater the amount it will lose, unless some steps are taken to deal with the situation. I am rather distressed that the underground proposals set out in the Report are so few. I think that there should be very many more. There are many more in the pigeonholes of London Transport and we ought to be developing them more rapidly than we are. The underground systems have to be built and paid for and they will lose a great deal of money. I understand from the Report that the estimated loss on the Victoria—Walthamstow line is going to be between £2 million to £2½ million a year. This is unavoidable, but the social benefits of providing this line and relieving congestion on the surface, and obviating the need to build new roads is infinitely greater, even when worked out mathematically as economists do. Sooner or later, and I hope that it will be sooner, these facts will be faced and it will be realised that something has to be done, some formula has to be worked out so that London Transport can work on a more realistic basis.
I hope that my right hon. Friend has not overlooked the recommendation of the Select Committee, that the capital charges of underground development for the future should be borne by the community.
The Report did say that, and I agree with it. My complaint is that the demand by the Select Committee for an urgent decision on these matters was not as keen as I would have liked it to be. In nearly all the big cities of the world the state and the municipality contribute huge sums of money towards maintaining a good transport service for the people of the capital. The Report shows that in Paris a £30 million subsidy is paid annually by the central Government and the municipalities towards the operating costs of the transport system.
Thirty-three per cent. of the revenue comes out of public funds, together with all new capital expenditure for extensions and local developments. In New York an enormous amount of money comes out of public funds, including money for capital expenditure and depreciation. The New York authorities reported that that was the only way in which they could manage. Putting up fares would have had the same effect as putting up fares in this country—people would leave public transport and turn to private transport.
Stockholm is another example. There, a total of £4 million a year is contributed by the State and local authorities to provide an adequate transport service. This sum is equivalent to 25 per cent. of the operating expenses. The question is not whether some such system should be adopted in this country but when and how. To the question "when?" I would answer, "I hope very quickly". The question "how?" is for the Government to decide. I have always thought that there was immense strength in the claim that it was wrong, when everyone wants to develop public transport and attract more people to it, to tax it by a huge fuel tax. London Transport has to pay £4½ million every year in fuel tax. If one wants to attract people to London Transport the thing to do is to make the fares reasonably cheap, or at least not to put them up. There is a very strong case for removing the fuel tax on all public transport, not only in London, but throughout the country.
No one wants an openended subsidy. That is always an exceedingly bad thing. It must be relief which is logical and attached to a certain purpose. If one is going to get relief it must be from a combination of the Government and local authorities. In my view the major part should come from the Government and not local authorities, as is the case in all the other countries of the world. The logical reason for this is that if a new main road is to be driven through a town, the major part of the cost is always paid for by the central Government. A contribution of about 25 per cent. is made by the local authority, with the remainder coming from the central Government. That seems a perfectly fair division, but one does not want to be too dogmatic about this.
When one talks of the difficulty of finding money for this sort of improvement to public transport, one must bear in mind that the national revenue is going to rise by an additional sum of about £50 million a year during the next few years as a result of the increase in the number of private vehicles, which are the cause of all the congestion. If one takes the licensing duty and the petrol tax which those cars pay, £50 million extra is going to the Government annually over the next five or six years and it will be even more in later years.
It would be perfectly logical for the Government to say that they could use some of the money obtained from road users, who have caused all this trouble, to help public transport and provide an adequate service. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us that, as a result of the examination of London Transport which he said he was going to undertake in March after granting a temporary subsidy to it, he can now give us some idea of how he is going to deal with the problem in future.
The only other matter with which I want to deal very briefly is a constitutional one. It concerns a point which has arisen on many occasions. In paragraph 76 the Select Committee is critical of "the covert … concern" of the Minister with the affairs of the Board. It suggests that the Minister's concern with the Board should be only in regard to statutory matters—that is, capital expenditure and general directions on matters of important national interest—and that other influence on the Board and covert concern is wrong. I disagree entirely. One of the main purposes of the nationalised industries is that they should serve the public interest entirely and no private interest.
While the boards may do their best to judge what is the public interest and weigh it against the private interest, there is one body which can judge the public interest better than any other, and that is this House. We have views on what the public interest is and we should be able to convey them through the Minister to the Board. There should be discussion with the Board about its problems. There should be a constant exchange of views on the financial aspects of the concern and all its activities as interpreted by the House and the Minister. This is the duty of a Minister responsible for any nationalised industry.
It is essential—and here I agree with the Select Committee—that there should be no blurring of responsibility. In the past there have been occasions when the Minister has persuaded the Board to do something. The Board has done it, and when we have criticised the Minister in the House for the action which has been taken, he has said, "It's not my fault; it is the Board's", and we know that the Board did it because the Minister had indicated his desire that it should be done. That is all wrong, and I hope that it will not happen again. I should like to see a good, harmonious relationship between the Minister and the Board—not covert but overt concern with the affairs of the Board.
The Minister has some responsibility to the House. If there is disagreement on any matter of importance between the Board and the Minister, if the Minister wants the Board to do something which it considers may not be commercially prudent, there should be a direction. It is not a reproof in the slightest. The Minister should say, "I want you to do so-and-so". The responsibility is then clear. But, apart from that, the Minister should be in constant discussion with the Board. This is in the interests of the Chairman of the Board, who may, if he is a wise man, often want to know the Minister's opinion on all sorts of public problems. It is in the interests of the Minister in carrying out his responsibility. It is in the interests of the House and, ultimately, of the public, too.
It is always a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) in debate. He and I have been together on a number of occasions studying traffic problems in some of the great European cities. We have not been to the United States, but perhaps one day that will be possible; we live in hope.
I join the right hon. Gentleman in congratulating the Select Committee and its Chairman, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) and its previous Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent). I am sure that every hon. Member regrets that both these gentlemen have stated that they will not contest the next election. I hope that it is not their exertions as Chairmen of the select Committee on Nationalised Industries which have worn them down.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West said that the Select Committee was Labour controlled. This rather surprised me because I thought that Select Committees were non-partisan theoretically. In the resolution about which there has been considerable discussion today it appeared that it was not Labour controlled. I simply draw that to the hon. Gentleman's attention and place it, with some considerable pleasure, on the record because he said that politicians reared their ugly heads. I do not know who was the politician on this occasion, but my Friends on the Select Committee very much had the feeling of service to the House and were genuine in what they thought when they took this matter to the vote.
I have a small interest to declare as I am holding in my hand a season ticket for London Transport. This is another reason why I am particularly interested that its obligations, statutory and otherwise, to provide and pay for an adequate service to the public should be fulfilled.
We seek in these debates, which are usually initiated by people who take a nonpartisan view, to be discursive and basically non-party. However, I wish to press for answers from the Minister, to whom I am grateful for replying to the debate.
We are entering the three most critical years possibly in the Board's history since it took its present form. We wish its new chairman, Mr. Maurice Holmes, the greatest strength and success. He will need it in dealing with the very serious problems which he will face. But, knowing him and his vigour and enthusiasm and the way in which, I am sure, he will get on with the Minister, I feel confident that he will do his best to accomplish these terribly difficult tasks.
The Select Committee found that the Transport Board, while obliged to provide staff and to pay for an adequate service, had failed to fulfil these obligations. This is put down mostly to the financial aspect of the high cost of wages and, secondly, the problem of congestion. There is no likelihod, it is regrettable to say, of any substantial easement until the Victoria Line is completed. A good deal of ancient history has been provided today, some of it of a recriminatory nature. I would rather look to the future and hope that we will deal with these problems. Whatever we say in recrimination, I would exonerate the Board from any blame in this matter.
In the findings and Report of the Select Committee there is a brief preview of three underground lines. I hope that the Minister will be able to lift the veil a little today because we are all very interested in this subject. As the right hon. Member for Vauxhall said this is one of the quickest ways of dealing with this intensely difficult problem. There are technical problems such as automatic train control and ticket machines. There is the problem of congestion delaying buses and buses delaying other traffic in the off-peak period. This is a problem which we must face.
There has been considerable delay in the inception of the two new buses, the second of which we have seen. I regret that the Minister was not able to tell the House about this matter today. According to the noon edition of the Evening News, the red arrow buses are for the West End. I gather that there are only six of them. I wish them success, and I hope that this inception will be acceptable to the public and the unions and will bring benefits during the rush hour period between Marble Arch—or Marb'larch, as many conductors call it—and Victoria Station. This I suppose to be the "standee" bus carrying 80 people. I hope that it will be very successful.
When one criticises the Board in its alleged inactivity in dealing with the labour problem, one cannot but come back to the Board's rejoinder on page 3 of the Select Committee's Second Special Report:
There is not in the Select Committee's Report any expressed appreciation of the fact that it is necessary in any large modern industry for there to be a willingness on the part
of the Trade Unions (in the case of the London Transport bus operating staff, the Transport and General Workers' Union) …
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West was very fair in referring to this. I have memories, when I was fighting a by-election well outside the London Transport Board's area, of the Minister of Technology being in direct conflict with the then Minister of Labour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. lain Macleod). It is not entirely fair for members of the Committee to say that the Board did nothing about this problem, that there was no great difficulty and that it should have grasped the nettle. The nettle was certainly a difficult one and the Board's problem at that period was extremely intense.
Seventy per cent, of the cost of the Board's undertaking goes in wages and salaries. There is a chronic shortage of labour in London. In the Transport Act 1962, both the hon. Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne, West and the right hon. Member for Vauxhall did their best to resist the dismemberment of the Transport Commission. They have implied today that the greater integrity and separate identity of the London Transport Board has been beneficial to it. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West shakes his head, but that was what I implied from reading the Report of the Select Committee. The Committee has said that no steps were taken to solve the labour problem after the separate identity in 1963, and this is possibly true. It is also true, however, that it was not long after that time before the Phelps Brown Committee was announced in November of that year.
The Select Committee has put its finger on the four conditions which are essential to the adequate running of the service. The first is that relief should be given towards the cost of construction of the Victoria Line. There is also, as the right hon. Member for Vauxhall recognises, the social problem and the problem of the service, but these things are exceedingly difficult to evaluate. I tend towards the view that the Board's request for relief from interest charges on the debt incurred is a reasonable one and I hope that we will hear tonight from the Minister what answer he will give to this.
The request has been made by the Board for relief from fuel duty. After the Chancellor imposed 6d. a gallon additional tax last year, the Minister of Transport seemed to imply some acceptance of this principle in applying it to other stagecoach services. I shall be grateful, therefore, to hear the Minister's decisions on these proposals.
The second consideration is room for buses and priority streets or priority lanes for them. I see the Minister looking a little happier, because he can possibly wriggle out of this one and say that it is a matter for the Greater London Council. The right hon. Gentleman is, however, a Minister of great power in the Cabinet and in the country and he can surely ask the Greater London Council what it is doing about this. We know and welcome the fact that there is great co-operation between the Greater London Council and the Board on these problems, and this is a good thing.
Then there is the need for adequate tools, including automation, underground services and one-man buses as well as an improvement in staff relations. While on the railways side labour relations are good, they are much less happy in the buses. It would seem to me, therefore, that the reason is not necessarily a labour relation fault of management. Although one frequently finds that in a large undertaking labour management is rather the poor relation, in this case there are good labour relations in one section of the undertaking and one member—at one stage it was Lord Geddes—is responsible for labour relations. It would seem to me that if one person is responsible throughout and there are bad relations in one section, it is in that section and possibly, in the union concerned that we want to see greater co-operation.
Surely, the hon. Member would accept that it is just as likely that the difference arises from the fact that the jobs which people do on buses and on the railways are entirely different. The nature of the work in the former, including the incredible frustration that many motorists, whether driving a bus or a car, must feel in London, has a good deal to do with bad relations.
We can all draw inferences. I have drawn mine and possibly the hon. Member, when he makes his next speech, will develop that theme at even greater length.
The Select Committee was, I think, a little unkind in saying to the Board that it needed more foresight and drive. The Board has carried through a very advanced underground service and has attempted very hard to introduce modernised buses. It has met with difficulties, with which I will deal, regarding automation and ticket services, but the London underground system is one of the most modern and efficient in the world. As I have said, I welcome the new Chairman. I am sure that his vigour —because it is vigour that is needed—will be most valuable at this time.
We wish very much to strengthen the Board in its financial situation. I welcome the fact that the Board has now made the financial director directly responsible not to the Vice-Chairman but to the Chairman himself. That is something that we should welcome. It is thoroughly reasonable that this should be done. The Board must itself be fully determined in its view that a full-time membership of four is the best arrangement that it has found in its long experience. One must accept that the Board is entitled to its own decision about this.
Regarding the provision of an adequate service, there has been a good deal of criticism about the Victoria Line. This is the first major improvement of the Underground service during the last 50 years. I was not quite sure what figures the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West quoted, because at that moment somebody challenged him and he lost his place. I understand the working party to have met in 1949 and that the line was agreed by the Ministry of Transport in 1953. There were delays, and we are paying for them now. In the end product, however, it might be that improved tunnelling technique will make the project less costly, or no more costly, than might have been feared.
I regret that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) is no longer present. I doubt whether there was any accuracy in his figures.
The result of the advanced tunnelling methods that have been evolved is that the tunnel will not cost any more than the original estimate, as distinct from the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell).
The hon. Member and I both disagree with the hon. Member for Bodmin and regret that he is not here to stand up for himself on this occasion. This element of cost will, I hope, have been dealt with. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that the northern section of the line will be completed in the second half of 1968 and that the whole line will be completed early in 1969.
The problem of construction of transport projects is a difficult one. We saw a little of this in yesterday's debate on building controls and I do not want to be inconsistent with what occurred then. I understand that in 1962, the estimated cost of the line was £56·1 million. It was revised in 1964 to £57·8 million and, because of the capitalisation of the interest charges, it has now been revised to £63·1 million. As the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West would agree, that refutes the figures that we were given from the Liberal bench.
I hope that the line will attract a tremendous amount of new traffic, that it will be quickly used, that it will be successful in taking traffic from both cars and buses and that this will reduce congestion. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us more about this and the continuing of other tunnelling projects after this line has been finished.
Last year, as we know, Parliamentary powers were given for the WaterlooAldwych section, which is going to cost £6 million. This year, Parliament is to be invited to give powers for the Brixton-Stockwell-Vauxhall-Victoria section, which is a costly one because, again, we will have a crossing under the river and a reduction of strain on the bridges of the Thames. That will cost £15 million. I hope that those powers will be granted.
Then there is the Fleet line from Baker Street via Bond Street, Green Park, Aldwych, through Fleet Street and down to New Cross and Lewisham. That sounds like a railway itinerary, which it is. I hope that it will be successful, and I hope that we will know when Parliamentary powers are going to be sought, because if Parliamentary powers are sought too long in advance of their actual requirement, it tends to cause resentment in the House, as the Minister, who is an older Parliamentarian than I, will very well know.
At present, we have only four crossings of the river by the underground system. One is the Bakerloo Line, going as far as the Elephant and Castle, one is the Metropolitan Line at Rotherhithe which does not go very far into Southern London, and then there are the two Northern Line crossings at London Bridge and Charing Cross, and those are the only set of crossings with deep penetration into South London. The fact that we will get crossings under the Thames which will relieve peak traffic flows on the bridges will assist the experiments on tidal flows that the former Minister of Transport was so right in bringing about. I hope that we will have more tunnels, not only railway tunnels but also possibly road tunnels, and I hope that we shall hear something more about the problems involved.
There is the pressure on the construction industry, and the House should be insistent that both the tunnelling crews and the very expensive machinery that is required should he kept in constant use. The most economical way is to keep the crews together and keep the machinery going in a steady flow of work. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something about it and that when the Victoria Line tunnelling ceases in 1967 there will be work for the crew and the machinery to do straight away and that the activity will be kept on. I expect an undertaking from him, but I do not expect him or his staff necessarily to be running our transport arrangements in this country.
The new lines are the ones where automatic train control is most properly to be brought in. When one reduces the interval between trains from 110 to 90 seconds, it does not seem very much, but with an intensive rush-hour time it is a great advance. The machine is replacing man. Let us hope that it will be a foolproof machine, but the London Transport undertaking has a very high record of safety. When these disasters occur they always make the headlines, and it is fortunate that there has been little publicity in that respect for a very long time. Automation is a good thing because, as I have said, London Transport is so wage-intensive, and the mere saving of 39 men will mean a £22,000 reduction in the Board's wage bill, or has done this year. When the system is completed, 200 men will not be required. There is no question of their being laid off, because there will be no redundancy. It means that 200 men will not be taken on, and there will be a saving of £200,000 a year.
An automatic train control system as used in America, Japan and Sweden has been experimented with on the Woodford-Hainault line. I understand that it has been a great success on the four-carriage lines. When eventually it is brought in on the Victoria Line, it will avoid the necessity of a staff of 75 and will mean a saving of £50,000 in wages. But it will require new rolling stock, and I understand that it is not going to be installed throughout the whole system until the year 2,000. Those of us who are still here then will be glad to see it.
Then there is the automatic ticket control system, which I understand the Select Committee went to see at Chiswick Park and Acton Town. It has involved an intensely heavy cost of development, and there has been criticism of the research costs of the London Transport Board. I was glad that it was wise enough to share that cost with the San Francisco system, because it means that there was greater commercial prudence than perhaps the Board was given credit for in the Select Committee's Report. The cost will be £10 million, so it will be seen that there are tremendously expensive things being put in at present.
Another problem is the matter of relieving congestion. There is the matter of staggered hours which may not be dramatic in their effect but which possibly protract the rush-hour period. "Crush hour" may be a better expression than "rush hour", I think. One is grateful to firms and Departments of the Civil Service that do it, and it is something that is of advantage to the community.
I was glad to see the extension of parking facilities from 1,400 cars 10 years ago to 4,500 today, but when one realises that that is in 55 stations, it means that there is no more than an average of accommodation of about 100 cars per station. I am glad to see that at 29 stations there is going to be accommodation for at least 5,000 more cars. Like the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, I have seen the Swedish park-and-ride system. It is one that seems to work very efficiently, but there is a much greater connection between the planning authority of the City of Stockholm and the transport undertaking than there has been in London hitherto before the new set-up between the Greater London Council and the London Transport Board.
If one goes right outside the gluepot fringe, or whatever it is called, into the outer suburbs of Stanmore and places like that, and attempts to do what one sees being done in Cleveland, Ohio, where car parks accommodate 2,000 vehicles, and tries to charge 1s. 6d. for parking, it is difficult to get cars in when there is free parking in the streets outside. I feel that some reasonable form of metering is required with such a system, and that is a thing that should be considered.
The finances of the Transport Board is one of the things which are at the nub of the situation. There have been great technological advances, but under Cmnd. 1337, which was brought in before the Board was created, it was required to pay its way one year with another. There was an agreement, which I think was wrong, between the Department and the Board that it should aim at an average working surplus of £4 million a year. That is too stringent on the Board, and it must be the most substantial point of a revised financial structure. The financial obligation must be realistic if it is going to have any purpose at all, and, at the same time, there must be some measure of achievement when it is decided upon.
I would ask the Minister, as I asked him when we granted him borrowing powers for the London Transport Board about three weeks ago, will he give a fares increase, will he increase the loans still further in the future, and will he change the arrangements for servicing the loans? I am sure that all hon. Members on this side would agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford in opposing absolutely the open-ended sub- sidy, but it is a plain financial fact that if we give to the Board increased borrowing powers and it is not allowed to increase its fares, it goes further into deficit, it needs further borrowing powers still, further interest payments have to be made, and the thing becomes not a virtuous spiral upwards but a vicious spiral downwards. I am sure that the whole House wishes to prevent that, and I hope that we can hear something from the Minister about it.
Scope for economies is not all that great. I have described what will be obtained by the automatic train control system, and there will also be the elimination of fraud by automatic ticket control and collection, but one cannot tell how great it is. There is no great scope for economy in the elimination of unremunerative bus routes, but I hope that the Board will continue to look at routes and see what can be cut out.
As we know, and as has been said, the £4 million surplus was agreed on, but an increased revenue of £4 million will be needed this year, £12 million next year and £16 million to £20 million the year after that. This shows the extent of the problem and the vicious spiral that might be obtained if nothing is done about this.
It would involve, as the Board says, fare increases of £8 million per annum. One is aware of the difficulties to which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall referred, but I would not say that these difficulties are necessarily insuperable. I think we have to face the fact, as the Minister did when he went to a recent by-election at Erith and Crayford that one has to make a decision whether to increase fares by a certain degree. 'The Board has said that it would like to do it in two stages, to abolish the 1½ and 2½ mile fares, and to substitute 2 and 3 mile fares. This will bring an estimated loss of 61 million journeys, which is 2·3 per cent. of the total travelling public, but an added revenue of £6 million.
The second step would be for the Board to take a hop on a bus, not for 4d. but for 6d., two miles for 9d. and three miles for 1s. I hope it seems a rather long way. Again, £6 million would be added to the revenue, but 176 million journeys would be lost, and 176 million people travelling the roads and adding to congestion. This would be 7 per cent. of the travelling population.
It is a difficult problem. I sympathise with the Board, but it is for the Minister to assist us today and to tell us what is to be done. I agree that either way public opinion is going to be vocal—public opinion in the streets, public opinion outside, public opinion in the Press and public opinion in this House, and we will probably be about the noisiest of all. Thus, it is no easy decision that we have to hear but which I hope we will hear it tonight.
It is in the memory of senior Members of the House that in 1952 the Minister of Transport was driven to ill-health and resignation because of an increase of fares in London, and so, while one never sympathises with one's political opponents, I wait with the greatest interest to hear what the Minister is going to say tonight.
It is difficult to decide whether it is a greater irritant to put up fares by small amounts regularly, or to put them up by slightly larger amounts and less regularly, but this again is something that we have to know. The Minister has taken on himself these powers which my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford and his colleagues on the Committee resisted but I hope that we will be told what form of relief of costs the Minister proposes to give to the Board.
Is he going to give relief from interest charges on the capital expenditure on the Victoria Line? We have been told that the Greater London Council is proposing to spend £500 million on an urban network. If some of this could be saved, it would appear logical for the G.L.C. to assist here. Again, there is relief from fuel tax. The total relief is £8·2 million —fuel tax £4½ million, and other relief £3½ million.
These are difficult things. I think that I heard the right hon. Member for Vauxhall say that he opposed an open-ended subsidy. I think that the Paris Metro subsidy is an open-ended one because, as I understand it, if the Metro Company tells the Government, or the City of Paris, that it wishes to put up fares by so and so, the Government offer to indemnify the company against any loss by not doing so. If I were running the Metro system, I would wish to double the fares each year. It seems a vicious type of open-ended subsidy and I would oppose it and any other form of open- ended subsidy, which I consider to be highly undesirable.
The criterion of social benefit is difficult to quantify accurately, but it is notable that the London Transport Board, which is a young body, and the G.L.C., which is also a young body, are cooperating very well indeed. In fact, it is not so much co-operation and friendship as almost a courtship, and the best way to spoil a courtship is to bring in financial considerations. Thus, I sympathise with the new Chairman of the Board when he says that he does not wish to take any money off the G.L.C. We wish to keep that co-operation, but I am not sure that the G.L.C. should not make some contribution to this.
The Board's total deficit in the next three years will amount to £17 million if nothing is done. If the maximum fare increase is given, revenue will be increased by £23 million, and we will break even this year and have surpluses next year and the year after that in the unlikely event of there being no adverse factors such as wage awards. I hope that the Minister will say whether he will allow a modest rise in fares or this relief in costs.
I sympathise with the Board. It is an economic misfortune to have to run a system which has to be capable of dealing with a maximum load, and, at the same time, for at least half the day and a good deal of the night, to have to operate below capacity.
I hope that we shall have an answer, because I was interested and sorry to see, I think in The Times of Saturday, the following statement:
When … the Minister of Transport speaks in the debate on Thursday, he will have to report that this examination has not yet been completed.
I hope that for once The Times news service will be wrong and that we will have an answer. This problem has been examined with thoroughness and with care by the Select Committee. The Board has gone to a great deal of trouble to furnish the Committee with tremendous appendices to make sure that the Committee's information was up to date and precise, and I hope that we shall have an answer.
I conclude by saying—and this always cheers the House; it is the happiest part of anybody's speech to say "In conclusion"—that the Board is serving the greatest city in the world, but great cities today are still designed as they were in Roman and Athenian times, with all the traffic coming to the centre. A great deal of what is being done is taking the traffic out of the centre, and we wish to do this, but in all these things, whether we bring in more motor cars or immense new roads, we run the danger of destroying our city's civilisation. If we kill our city by simple thrombosis, by traffic jams such as we will probably see outside this House tonight, or if we kill it in the way we see in Los Angeles and San Francisco, by bringing in lanes of motorways which are tearing the heart out of those cities, we will not merely destroy our city as we know it today, but we will do something to destroy the civilisation upon which the Western world depends.
I think that it will be convenient if I intervene in the debate at this point, but I find myself in some difficulty, because hon. Gentlemen opposite have reminded me of the limits of my statutory duty, and reminded me that I must not interfere in the affairs of the Board inasmuch as these are matters for the Board's consideration and determination. But they have then proceeded to fire at me questions which, at the end of the day, can be answered only by the Board. However, I will do the best I can in the circumstances.
A good deal has been said about the plan for the development of the Underground, and perhaps it would be right to say something about this. To begin with, hon. Members are aware that the plan envisages not only the extension of the Aldwych line to Waterloo, and the extension of the Victoria line to Brixton, but a much more tentative scheme known as the Fleet Line from Baker Street to Fleet Street and on to South-East London.
The first two to which I have referred, the two smaller ones, were not submitted at the time when the Select Committee was conducting its examination of the Board. I think that there is statutory provision for one, but a submission had not been made to me. A submission has now been made to me in respect of both these smaller lines. I have to give the matter due consideration, but it is only a little more than a week ago since I introduced a Borrowing Powers Order in respect of which I was criticised by hon. Members opposite for asking for so much money for the London Transport Board. The money I was asking for then was, for the greater part, money required by the Board for the Victoria extension, which is under construction.
I am willing to seek to ensure that the resources employed on the development of our underground system will not have to be set aside because of the failure of the Government to approve the underground extension. As quickly as I can I shall reach a conclusion upon the submissions which have very recently been put to me by the Board.
The Select Committee thought that the plan concerning these three lines should have been published. It said so in no uncertain terms. But I regarded the plan as being a working document, to be used in further study. The whole plan envisages an expenditure of about £125 million in railways for the Railways Board and for the London Passenger Transport Board, and looks very far into the future. I took the view that if I approved the publication of that document at that time I would be raising a lot of false hopes, because many of the tentative proposals had yet to be worked out. They are subject to many "ifs" and "buts".
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster), in what I thought was a very good speech, said that he did not want statutory authority to be given too far in advance of any tube extension being put under construction, so that people would have their hopes raised only to have them subsequently dashed. I honestly took the view that the plan produced by the working group earlier this year would raise hopes quite unjustifiably if it had been published at that time. I thought it far better to use the plan as a working document and that, among other things, it should be taken into consideration by those whose business it is to carry out the London Transportation survey.
In any case, the plan that has had the most publicity—that concerning the Fleet line—has been referred to by the Board in its comments on the Report as being in a more tentative state of development. So it is far short of the state of development of the other plans.
I appreciate my right hon. Friend's observations about the plan being regarded as a working document, but it was a document prepared by the experts of the Board. They wanted to have discussions with other interested traffic authorities—so it is clear that the Board regarded it as a working document, also—before a final scheme was presented. I am not satisfied about the great amount of delay that took place before it was allowed so to do. The Board was dissatisfied when it gave evidence before our Committee.
I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to make my own speech. If I have other interventions like that I might have to speak for a long time, and thereby become very unpopular. I am still on the first point of my speech. I was about to say that the working document was made available to all the planning authorities concerned—to all the people who were going to make use of the document prepared on behalf of the Railways Board and the London Transport Board.
The decision not to publish was my personal decision. I am a little surprised to be informed that the Board was strongly opposed to my decision, because I discussed it at the time with the Chairman of the British Railways Board and the Chairman of the London Transport Board. I may be too generous in my attitude to people, but I had the impression that they thought that in the circumstances it might be as well if the document were not made available to the public, because it would appear to the public to be a fully worked out scheme. No harm has been done. No scheme has been held up, and no work will be delayed in consequence of this document not having been fully worked out.
My hon. Friend was harsh in his criticism of the accounting officer in my Ministry—the Permanent Secretary—whom he called the Ministry's witness. I hope that he will not be too upset if I say that I have been a member of Select Committees in the past and that I have warmed to the civil servant who, when being questioned, sometimes descended from the terminology which civil servants normally enjoy to that which is more frequently indulged in in a place like this. I would not have taken exception to any of the words used by the principal witness for the Ministry. I have the relevant page here. It is a matter of opinion, but I would have thought that the accounting officer in my Ministry would be even further embarrassed if I were to say anything more in his defence.
The report is wrong, in believing that the decision to refuse, disapprove of, or to discourage publication of the plan was a decision by a civil servant, or even the Ministry as a whole; normally the attitude of the Ministry is not that of an individual officer, but something for which the Minister must be responsible, even though he is unaware of the decision that has been taken. The right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) will know what I have in mind. One of his right hon. Friends, to whom he was Parliamentary Secretary at the time, resigned in consequence of a decision taken in his name although he was totally unaware of that decision. When the Ministry takes a decision I take a decision, and I have to hold the baby. From that point of view I rather regret that the Ministry and not the Minister has been criticised in the Report.
A little has been said about automation. It is important that the London Transport Board should get as much as possible out of automation. It is an undertaking whose wage costs represent 76 per cent. of its total costs. There is no undertaking in the country in which it is more desirable in the public interest that good progress should be made in the development of automation.
The Victoria Line will have automatic ticket collection and automatic train control. The possibility of developing this for the rest of the system exists, and I hope that it will be applied before the year 2000. I hope that it will be applied in the course of the 1970s—[Interruption.] The year 2,000 was mentioned. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear it, but the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare said he understood that it would not be made until 2,000 and I had foolishly assumed that all who are listening to me had also heard the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare.
As the Select Committee says, London Transport has been a pioneer in this respect. I sometimes wish that we would blow our trumpets a little more loudly. When references are made to some of the things which are not so good in London Transport, the impression tends to be given unwittingly by some hon. Members that the London Transport Board is a backward-looking organisation. But London Transport and a company in San Francisco are ahead of the world in this respect at present. Nowhere in the world is any system in advance of what is being done in London under the auspices of the London Transport Board.
There will, one hopes, be big savings with the development of the one-man bus and the experiments with it which are planned in the central area. The full benefit of this development, of course, will come only with automatic fare collection on the buses.
Social benefit techniques are referred to several times in the Report. The use of these techniques, which brings into account a quantification of the benefits to society of a new scheme which will not be reflected in the amount which people will have to pay for it, has, as the Select Committee says, been encouraged by my Ministry. I should observe however, that the Victoria Line was given the go-ahead by my predecessor, on the basis that the Board would pay its way —that is, that it could, overall, make ends meet from its revenue. These techniques were not applied to the Victoria Line when my predecessor gave the go-ahead for its construction.
We are now studying the wider possibility, to which the Select Committee referred, that the Board should be relieved of some part of the cost of such schemes in proportion to their social benefit, as well as to the more far-reaching proposal by London Transport that the Government should bear the costs of the fixed railways capital—that is to say, track and other things.
The Select Committee commented on the restrictions on the Board's powers to manufacture and on its lack of powers to provide services at its car parks. I have noted the Board's views and the Select Committee's comments and I hope to be able to do something about this when I bring forward the Bill dealing with manufacturing powers. I hope that I will also be able to pick up these proposals of the Board and the comments made by the Select Committee, and that I will be supported by those members of the Select Committee who have contributed to the Report and said how wonderful it is, and who have drawn attention to the Board's lack of powers which is to some extent dependent on the change in the law made as recently as 1962.
The Select Committee thought that the Board was too pessimistic about the prospects of raising additional revenue from fares, as is evident from paragraph 589. The Select Committee seemed to think that there was some conflict of view between the Board and the Ministry. The Board remains of the view that fares increases which could enable it to meet its statutory duty to pay its way would be so severe, and loss of traffic so heavy that the concept of London Transport as an essential public service would be in question and there would be heavy losses to the private car, causing increased congestion, which in turn adds to the difficulty of operating buses. This vicious circle would continue.
The Ministry's witness did not say that these consequences would not flow or that to increase fares in order to restore viability was desirable. He simply wished to make it clear that the Board might well be too pessimistic about the results and that it might be possible for the Board to pursue a policy that the passenger pays without the need to introduce unnecessarily high fares or cause great social hardship.
When, earlier this year, I took the decision which is criticised in the Report, I did so in the belief that to increase fares rapidly without taking any other steps would introduce this vicious spiral, by driving people off the buses and into motor cars, leading to more motor cars, more congestion, slower buses, less predictable services, fewer passengers, back to more motor cars and so on. I felt that I had to do something about it.
At that time, having taken my decision —which I not only felt I had a right to do but honestly thought that I had a duty to do—I called not only the Board but the Greater London Council to a discussion of the problem. I commissioned a study and I have here the result of the study—[An HON. MEMBER: "What is it?"] It is a survey of a working party of representatives of the Greater London Council, the Metropolitan Police and the London Transport Board, endorsed by the Greater London Council on 2nd November, 1965. It was worth doing this; this kind of study is of the greatest importance.
I thought that it was of some importance also to prevent the position from getting worse, because the work was being done. That is why I asked the Board not to go ahead with the fares increase. It is a little hard for hon. Members completely to ignore the great work which has gone into the preparation of this document, to which many people and many authorities on this subject contributed.
It is not a Stationery Office publication. It is a G.L.C. document. I do not know whether it is on sale to the public, but I know that a few weeks ago all the newspapers in the country were full of reports of this document, about the number of clearways which it recommended should be provided. I find it difficult to believe that any hon. Member who is interested in London Transport matters was unaware of its preparation.
I was a little sad that I should have been pressed during the debate to get in touch with the G.L.C. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare said, "I know. The right hon. Gentleman will slip out of it all by saying that, since 1st April, he has not been responsible for London traffic, which is now a matter for the Greater London Council, but I should like the Minister to get in touch with the G.L.C. and give it encouragement." To do what? To do what it has said in this document that it wants to do——
One of my hon. Friends tells me that the matter was mentioned in debate a considerable time ago. In any case, I should have thought that hon. Members of Her Majesty's Opposition Front Bench at least read the London evening newspapers.
Since I have referred to the role of the Minister, it might be helpful if I said something about that. I believe that the action which I took some months ago is a very good example of the need for the Minister sometimes to intervene in the affairs of a nationalised industry outside his purely statutory powers. I realise that criticism of the Minister's intervention has been the constant theme of the Select Committee, not only in its latest Report but time and again. It is indeed difficult to strike a balance. The Minister must remain in close touch—indeed, in the closest touch possible—with the Boards to know how their policies are developing and to keep them informed of Government policy generally. The Minister must endeavour, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) pointed out, to interpret to the Boards his view of where the national and public interests lie.
The London Transport Board faced a situation where its own statutory duties were impossible to reconcile. That is what the Chairman of the Board told me in March of this year—that it was impossible to reconcile the two basic obligations of the Board. One was to pay its way while the other was to provide an adequate service. It could not do the two. It could do one or the other, but not both—and it could not do both even with a fares increase. That was the interesting thing.
Even the fares increase which the Board proposed, it said, would not have resulted in its meeting its statutory duty but would have driven passengers away and the Board further from providing an adequate service. It must have been right, therefore, to step in to allow time for a policy to be developed, looking at public and private transport in the London area as a whole, and setting the Board on the way to the objectives which the Select Committee itself had in mind.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite think that this is the kind of intervention one might get from a Labour Minister but not from a Conservative Minister, I could say—although I do not propose to weary the House by reading it—that it would be worth while for them to read paragraphs 29 and 31 of the White Paper "The Financial and Economic Obligations of the Nationalised Industries" published in April, 1961. There they will find all the authority that is needed, from a Conservative Government, for a Minister in intervening in the way that I intervened in the case of the London Transport Board.
I think that it would have been monstrous if, at that time, in March of this year, I had said. "No. I cannot discharge what is normally my duty as the Minister concerned with London transport because there happens to be a Select Committee meeting, which is examining the Board"—although it was not in the position, which the Minister was, to interpret the public interest and although it did not have the responsibility, which the Minister had, for determining the loss out of public funds. It would have been wrong had I shelved my responsibilities because it was a matter which might have been considered at greater leisure by the Select Committee. In any case, there was no possibility of the Board consulting the Select Committee at that time. The Board had a duty under the Statute to try to make ends meet, and one of the ways to do that was to put up fares.
At that time, therefore, although the Board was following custom by telling the Minister what it proposed to do, it would have been doing something very strange indeed had it gone to the Select Committee and said, "This is what we have in mind to do. Please, what do you think of the idea?" The Committee could not have done anything about it, whereas the Minister could, and did.
As the House knows, the Government have been making a comprehensive study, in conjunction with the London Transport Board, of the circumstances in which the Board operates. This study has ranged beyond London Transport's financial affairs; the days are past when we could deal piecemeal with the road, rail, public transport or traffic problems of a city like London. We have looked at them all as a whole. Long-term policies need further investigations, notably those still being carried out within the London Transportation Study. But the Government are now ready to state their immediate intentions.
As a result of our analysis of the situation, we adopt the following broad objectives: first, to call a halt to the deterioration of London's transport facilities—of all kinds—and to make the positive improvements necessary to meet the economic and social needs of a great city, and to ensure that the traffic vital to those needs shall have freedom to move; secondly, to take measures to ensure the best use of scarce road space; thirdly, since we regard public transport systems as essential, to ensure that necessary public transport services are not only maintained but improved; fourthly, to find means to achieve a more equitable distribution of the burden of paying for London's transport in all its forms.
To achieve these objectives, complementary measures will be needed, to discourage the use of private cars, notably at peak times, and to improve public transport.
The Government have decided that the most immediate and effective measure is a new policy towards parking in Central London. Parking restrictions must be used as a deliberate deterrent to the peak hour car commuter and not merely, as in the past, as a means of keeping clear the road space needed for moving traffic. I am opening discussions at once with the Greater London Council, local authorities and others concerned on how quickly and effectively new measures can be taken.
Other possible measures of freeing the roads from congestion are being considered in detail, including extra charges for the use of vehicles on the roads in Central or other congested areas of London, and the necessary consultations will take place. What can be stated now is the Government's determination to achieve a marked improvement in a situation which, without special measures, will manifestly get worse. Some of the measures concerned might, if they are to be implemented in the most effective way, involve legislation.
On the public transport side, we need better, quicker, more comfortable and more punctual services. The easing of peak-hour road traffic should go a long way towards achieving shorter-term improvements by helping to clear the roads, by encouraging people back to public transport, and by enabling transport providers to reshape their services in the light of changed conditions. Moreover, measures of restraint can be so arranged as to ensure that, directly or indirectly, those who contribute to congestion in London will contribute to maintaining and developing the public transport services.
In the longer term, public transport will have to be improved in more radical ways; through new investment and by intensifying the effort devoted to research and development so as to achieve increased productivity and other far-reaching improvements in techniques.
Meanwhile, it will still be necessary to accept some increase in fares. This is necessary because the costs, particularly wage costs, of providing public transport rise more steeply than can be matched by increased productivity. Further deterioration in the financial position of the London Transport Board would make the eventual problems more difficult to solve. I have, therefore, told the Chairman of the Board and the Chairman of the Railways Board that the Government do not propose to ask for any further deferment of the fares increases originally intended to take effect earlier in the year.
Notwithstanding this increase in fares, the London Transport Board expects to require some measure of financial assistance in 1966. If that proves necessary, the Government will present to the House proposals for providing it.
While it remains to be seen how far what we have in mind to do will help to mend London Transport's finances, they will halt the decline, and set the Board, in particular, on the way towards the situation in which, to quote the words of the Select Committee, it can provide "… an efficient, economic and adequate service of public transport throughout their Area, for which the travelling public would be willing to pay".
Having made this statement of the Government's position, I should like, in conclusion, to express thanks to the Select Committee for its very thorough investigation, which has materially assisted in the study we have been making and about which I have just been speaking.
We have so far had five long speeches on this problem, and it is fair to say that the matter has been very fully considered and dealt with. I want only to make two general observations and make one reference to the Minister's intention on the Select Committee's Reports.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) is not here, as I want to take up one or two of the points he mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman speaks with probably as great authority as any one in the House on transport matters, and I should have liked him to have been present to hear my answer. The right hon. Gentleman congratulated the Select Committee on the one hand and, on the other hand, proceeded to take away a good deal of his praise. He said that he was not enormously impressed with our recommendations, but was much more pleased with the appendices, which are no part of the business of the Select Committee. We are entirely responsible for our recommendations. Our primary duty as a Committee is to consider the report and accounts, to hear evidence, and then to come to conclusions. We come to those conclusions by way of recommendations.
Going back over the history of the Select Committee, I would say that we have made recommendations on a number of industries, and it is very much to the credit of the Select Committee that those recommendations have always been unanimous. The test of our efficiency and our ability to make recommendations can he shown by the fact that more than 90 per cent. of our recommendations have been accepted by the various Ministries and the various boards, and that a great number of them have been acted upon, to the benefit, I think, of those boards and Ministries.
I should like to give one small example of where criticism by the Select Committee brought real results. When we were dealing with B.O.A.C. some years ago, we found that the Corporation's maintenance costs were running higher than those of other international airlines doing the same kind of work. We made rather strong criticisms. When we looked at that point again three years later, we found that very big strides had been made by B.O.A.C., and quite recently it has reported that it has brought down its maintenance costs to somewhat lower than the international level. That is an example of criticisms and recommendations by the Committee playing a useful part.
The right hon. Member for Vauxhall criticised our recommendations in regard to London Transport, and I am sorry to say that, for the first time, we have had a less than generous response from a board affected by our recommendations. Hitherto, every board we have dealt with has accepted our criticisms in the spirit in which they were given and, in the overwhelming majority of cases they have acted on them. I have read London Transport's answer to our criticisms in the Second Special Report, and I am afraid that I still feel that those criticisms were well founded.
One of the things borne in on us when we carry out these investigations is the quality of management. Inevitably, we form an assessment. We may not always be right, but it is part of our duty to do that, and I rather think that over a period of time we have probably become reasonably competent to form those assessments. We have found in the various Ministries that the standard of management has varied—inevitably so. Sometimes, we have found a very high standard of management throughout the Ministry; sometimes, a rather jagged situation—some very good men and, obviously, some less good.
We were all satisfied that the London Transport people were doing their job to the best of their ability, but I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) who said that we were not—or, at least, many of us were not—impressed with the way in which they had conducted their affairs, or with the initiative or with the imagination they have shown. We thought that all sorts of developments that might have been proceeded with some time ago had lagged behind, and that many of the things we were now hoping would come about might already have been in operation, to the benefit of London Transport generally.
We should be quite clear on the sub-sect of the Minister's intervention. We recognise that the Minister has a complete right, if he wishes to do so, to intervene in such a matter. Again, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall was wrong in saying it would have been altogether wrong had there been delays at that critical moment, and had the Minister had to wait for the recommendations of the Select Committee. This intervention occurred at the very moment when we were formulating our recommendations.
Although we conduct our affairs without disclosing what we are doing to the House, the Minister is fully aware, if he wishes to be—indeed he is kept fully aware—of what is occurring. Within a week he would have had our recommendations. He might have agreed with us, or would have been perfectly justified in not agreeing, but as we never came to that recommendation I cannot say what the answer would have been.
The Minister's intervention rendered nugatory a great deal of our work. Possibly the most important part of our inquiry related to finance. Again, when the right hon. Member for Vauxhall said that we had made a number of good Reports and that they had been getting better and better, he was quite wrong. It is no reflection on our Chairman, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell), and no reflection on the members of the Committee—or, indeed, on the Clerks of the Committee—that no one can reasonably say of a Report rendered nugatory by the Minister's intervention that it was one of our best Reports. In my opinion, it does not even begin to compare with our Reports on the gas and electricity industries.
Having said that, I recognise—and I am sure that I am speaking for my right hon. and hon. Friends—that the Minister had a right to intervene, but I think that the Minister himself, who has been a not undistinguished member of Select Committees, will recognise that if the members of the Committee were to be subject to this sort of thing as a matter of principle, it would be hard to gnd the right type of member, with experience and specialised knowledge, to go on serving on these Committees. I speak as strongly as that—and now we can forget all about it.
With my hon. and right hon. Friends and the Minister, I wish London Transport well. I think it has chosen a good man to lead it at this time. It has great problems which it is tackling. I hope that in due course this great city will have the best transport system in the world.
The House has heard tributes paid to the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman who recently resigned from the Board. I wish to join in the tributes from the Chairman of the Select Committee, to Sir Alec Valentine and his deputy. I invite hon. Members on both sides of the House to join with me in paying a tribute to someone else. We have heard tonight a great deal about the problems of industrial relations in this great undertaking. I wish to pay tribute tonight to the London busmen.
I am not surprised at the scale of industrial unrest in London Transport, but I am surprised by the small number of incidents which take place throughout a year. The House should know that in this matter the Chairman of the Board, giving evidence to the Select Committee, indicated that the scale of action, official and unofficial on the part of London bus crews compares very favourably with that experienced before the war. If we look at the task of the London bus driver and the London bus conductor, hon. Members cannot but be humble in the tribute they pay to the work of these men.
I wonder how many hon. Members on either side of the House, when irritated by the non-appearance of a bus after standing in a bus queue remember a very common occurrence in any bus garage when a bus crew has returned from its last journey. The driver and conductor expect that they will be free to go home, but the inspector in charge of traffic appeals to them to take that bus out on one more journey. Then, instead of going home, they go out once again into that terrible mess of London traffic in the rush hours. When they reach the bus queue and the cry goes up from those waiting in the cold, "Where have you been?", one can understand why sometimes the conductor may say, "It is not a question of where have I been; it is a question of where I ought to be—at home having my supper."
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) suggested that there was something wrong in industrial relations and that this sort of thing did not occur on the railways, but conditions prevailing in the overground transport system are entirely different from those in the underground. I cannot think of another public service where those engaged in it come into such intimate contact with the public as do the bus crews of London's passenger transport.
I wish to refer to the passage in the Select Committee's Report which deals at length with the evidence of the Phelps Brown Committee, and the consequences which it was hoped would flow from the recommendations of that Committee. We must recognise that the expected improvements suggested by the Phelps Brown Committee have not occurred.
The evidence shows that, apart from a very marginal improvement in the number of bus crews—a few hundred men—there has been nothing like the substantial improvement in the number employed as one would hope from the recommendations of the Phelps Brown Committee. I think it was the newly-appointed Chairman of the Board who told the Select Committee that it was something more than a question of morale in this problem. Dealing with the morale of bus crews, he indicated that to get to the root of the matter one had to go beyond the confines of mere industrial relations, however important they are, and actual wages and conditions of employment. I think I know what he was driving at. The London busman wants to see where his service will fit into the whole of the London transportation plan. This is why I was so sadly disappointed by the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister tonight. The statement left many urgent questions unanswered.
The London busman compares his status with that enjoyed before the war. Those of us who remember the London bus driver of those days and the regard in which he was held by the London public know that his top rate of pay was equal to that of a London policeman. The London bus driver wants not merely recognition of his status. It is not just a question of having a smiling queue rather than a disgruntled one waiting for him. He wants to know where his service will fit in, and so far we have not been able to tell him. I cannot accept that the Minister is entitled merely to refer hon. Members to a document prepared by the Greater London Council and to plead that in aid. It may well be that we do not all read the London newspapers, but it is not good enough to be told that the Greater London Council is working out a report. We should have from the Minister a much more urgent and realistic appreciation of what is necessary than we have received tonight.
It has been emphasised again and again that when examining the whole question, the wage conflict of London, the London Transport Board's new financial commitment, and the very large element of labour involved in the service, we find that the main trouble stems from the relationship established by the management of the Board, the public and those doing the work. The example illustrated in the Select Committee's Report of events up to the Phelps Brown Committee Report is a warning for the future. If one honestly seeks to appraise the evidence in that Report one must acknowledge that whatever was said by the Minister's representatives or the representatives of the Board, there would have been no Phelps Brown Committee established at that time but for the fact that London busmen unofficially introduced an overtime ban. There is evidence in the Report that such a Committee should have been contemplating this question a long time before. The Report of the Committee told us that there had been endless discussions with the Board about the recommendations which eventually emerged from the Phelps Brown Committee.
Whatever the reasons, no such action had been taken either by the Minister or the Board. The Minister's representatives said that it was not their job to ask for such a Committee. The Board's representatives told us that some time before they had told the Minister the nature of the wage settlement they would like to put forward to the Trans- port and General Workers' Union but that it did not fit into the general pattern of the Government's incomes policy at that time.
The London Transport Board has lost an annual revenue equal to £4 million as a result of that unofficial action. For many weeks London's public was doomed to further nightly suffering. This is an extraordinary way to run the passenger service of one of the greatest cities in the world. The Chairman of the Board, when asked whether we had to punish ourselves in this way, answered that he feared that was so.
In seeking to draw the Minister's attention to this aspect of the Committee's Report what I have in mind is this. It may be that we are nowhere near solving the problems of London's bus crews, their status, their rates of pay, their conditions generally. However, we cannot afford to go through this masochistic exercise again of punishing ourselves and punishing London's public before this problem is grappled with. I would address myself, if he were here, to the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. This question should be vigorously tackled in an effort to ensure that London's busmen are accorded proper status and recognition so that we do not have once again to go through the punishing exercise referred to in the Report.
I am grieved that tonight the Minister did not speak more emphatically about those aspects of financial assistance to the Board which the Select Committee spelled out. It is about time that we made up our minds about the cost of the great social improvements which not only the people of the Metropolis but the people of the country as a whole would enjoy if we could get the new underground railways built quickly. It is about time that the decision was taken to relieve the London Transport Board of the cost involved in building the Victoria Line. I am disappointed that the Minister merely said that this is still under review. I earnestly hope that the sad record of delay on the Victoria Line will not be repeated in the next few years. I hope that the execution of the plans. half-baked though they may be at this stage, which were put before the Select Committee for the further extension of London's Underground will not be procrastinated.
We have heard much tonight about the Greater London Council. Half an hour ago the Council came to the Minister's aid. We were referred to a document recently unanimously accepted by the Council. I am one of those who are coming to the view that in future there will be a much more intimate relationship between the London Transport Board and the Council than any of us have so far imagined. There are many references in the Report to the Council's work and to the responsibilities which the Minister has handed over to it. I will not weary the House with long quotations from the Minutes of Evidence. The final step which may well be forced upon the Government is to place responsibility for London's Passenger Transport squarely upon the Council's shoulders.
The Chairman of the Greater London Council told the Select Committee that London's passenger transport must have priority over all other forms of transport in the London area. One asks which body in the end can ensure that such priority is given to London's transport? In my view, the only body which is capable of ensuring that such high priority is consistently and persistently given to passenger transport is the Greater London Council.
The Report is littered with recommendations as to traffic management, as to road engineering, as to free lanes for buses, as to parking arrangements at suburban railway stations, and so on. The whole Report, apart from aspects relating to the underground, deals with the sort of traffic management which it is necessary to institute in London now. London's busmen want to see themselves as part of that traffic management, with passenger transport being part of the overall traffic management. I believe that the logic of events will bring about a situation in which London's traffic management will have to be vested in the Greater London Council.
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's line of thought. A point has been put to me by my constituents, which I have been considering. Does the hon. Gentleman think that the Greater London Council has sufficient powers of negotiation with the Minister and with the Board, as the Minister himself has through the House with the Board, to make the Board take action when it is necessary?
The Report shows that the representatives of the Board constantly stated that representations had been made to a whole proliferation of bodies which were responsible in one form or another for the management of London's traffic. The Board's representatives welcomed the fact that traffic management had been moved from the Ministry to the Greater London Council. They expected to be helped by the resulting simplification and by the fact that a smaller number of bodies would have to be referred to.
The Minister has given the Council great powers. The Council's area is not exactly that of the London Transport Board. However, this disparity is not necessarily a major matter in considering how the Council can become more intimately involved in the Board's work. The removal of the Minister from this immediate field, in the sense that the Board and the Council now have free access one with the other, ought to ease things considerably. The Minister told us of the work of his Committee whose Report has just been published.
We were given some appalling examples of bad planning. The Greater London Council went out of its way to give examples of the lack of liaison in the past. My point in looking to the future is to suggest that if we follow the logic of this argument the answer may well be a substantial revision of the way in which London passenger transport is managed as a whole. None of us who have applied our minds to these problems cannot but agree that this nightmare, which millions of Londoners have to suffer every day of their working lives, must be removed somehow or other. We have heard of the various techniques employed to calculate the social benefits which might be derived from expenditure on a new underground railway.
We cannot calculate the enormous loss which not only the Metropolis but the whole of the country's economy suffers because of this grinding process which Londoners have to undergo everyday. There are the losses represented by the effect on nerves and on health generally and in the falling off in production as well as in the waste of human spirit. I paid a tribute earlier to London busmen. I con-chide by paying a tribute to the patient Londoners who suffer night after night from the effect of our inability hitherto to solve this enormous problem.
I will not follow up the points made by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) in his interesting speech, which was mainly about the problems of the busmen. I intend to devote most of my time to rail transport, but, first, I should like to say how grateful I am to the Minister for his early intervention in the debate. By speaking in the middle of it he has supplied a few answers to questions which otherwise we might have talked about. However, I found that the answers that he gave at great speed towards the end of his speech were unenlightening.
I wrote those answers down as quickly as I could and I will try to say how they came out. First, the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to call a halt to the deterioration of services. This is absolutely splendid. This is what the whole debate has been about. We are all concerned about it, but it did not seem to me that the right hon. Gentleman's statement had brought us very much farther. Secondly, he was going to take measures to secure the best use of road space. This too is splendid and we wish him well in it, but how? Thirdly, he spoke about improving road transport services. Naturally, but what specific measures are we to have? Fourthly, and this has been the theme of many speeches today, he spoke of a more equitable method of financing the operations of the London Transport Board.
When the Minister went on to spell out his remedies in greater detail I was hoping that he would tell us more about the fourth point than he did, because this is the heart of all our troubles with London transport. We are all waiting for a reply from the Government Front Bench on this matter. To be fair to the Minister, I tried to jot down also the measures which he had in mind to achieve the quite unexceptionable aims that he itemised earlier. He spoke, first, of more parking restrictions and extra charges for vehicles. There is some progress to be made there, but we should like to have had greater details because this has been a remedy which has been applied for some years. It has done some good but it certainly has not produced the final answers.
The Minister then spoke of the need for quicker and better services to encourage people to go back to public transport. This is all very welcome, but once again how does he propose to do it? Then there was some suggestion that those who added to the congestion of the roads might be specially taxed, presumably to encourage them not to do it. I should like to hear more about that in some detail.
At the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech we got back to the Old Adam. He did not propose to oppose a rise in fares. He saw it as inevitable, as I suppose it is. But after the right hon. Gentleman's intervention earlier in the year, this looks like an admission of defeat and that he has decided to stop being King Canute giving subsidies to the London Transport Board to avoid fares increases. On the new financial proposals we had no word from the Minister. All he said was that further consideration was being given to them.
I want to be constructive. We had the destructive debate a few weeks ago on the borrowing powers which we were giving to the London Transport Board. I want to speak mainly about the underground railway aspect of this matter. I am convinced that the greatest prospect of improving the condition of London's transport lies underground. I would not say for a moment that we could wash our hands of the surface services. We cannot, and I am very much in favour of what the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen said about the need for as global a solution as possible of this problem. However, the greatest scope for improvement lies in the construction of new underground railways.
I was encouraged by what the Select Committee's Report had to say about automatic train operations. We know that these experiments have been going on for some time. When one considers the immense saving in labour, which is our most scarce commodity, that the successful outcome of the experiments would mean, I am sure that it would be agreed that we should put every penny we have into the experiments. It would be a good long-term and even short-term investment.
I am glad that the Select Committee stuck a few pins into the Board on the question of automatic ticket control and the need to speed that up. If that is done I hope that it will be applied in Victoria Station, which is the worst place in the world to get a ticket. The station deals with thousands of commuters from the main line who use the underground system and there are always masses of tourists there. I find on most mornings two overworked clerks trying to dispense tickets to immense numbers of people, with the ticket machines not being fully used because people have not the right change.
The spending of a bit more money would yield tremendous dividends. Most of us have had the experience of going through a barrier at a London Transport station without anyone paying particular attention to whether we had a ticket. That is partly the result of a staff shortage and partly because the staff is overwhelmed with what it already has to do. The sooner we snap out of that and move over to automatic ticket control the better, and I am sure that the money spent on this development would be very well spent.
The objection to all these things is cost and there is no getting away from that. How are they to be financed? I hope that we shall adopt the system used all over Europe and North America and make the Government responsible for the greater part of the capital cost of driving new tube lines. There is nothing revolutionary about this. We can never hope to have reasonably cheap fares if we lay on the operating authority the burden of the immense capital cost of burrowing underground and putting in electronic signalling systems and so on. It is not done anywhere else.
But putting the cost on the Government does not mean that it is then forgotten or that the provision is free. It means that there is a broader back than London Transport's to bear these great charges and the Board can then do a perfectly normal commercial operation and, the Government having bored the hole, drilled the tube and perhaps put in the track and stations, they can then lease to the operating company, as is done elsewhere and the whole project can be amortised over an appropirate number of years. If we did that, we would have a broader back bearing these heavy additional costs which would be repaid in the end and which would permit a fares structure which the ordinary man could afford to pay.
Although there is no getting away from the fact that this is a critical Report, I hope that the lessons which it spells out will be taken to heart and applied. Although this evening particularly we are only taking note of this document, we ought to do more than that. We should see that its sensible criticisms are acted upon by the Minister and we should apply our own minds to seeing that they are acted upon without delay.
I was not quite convinced by what the right hon. Gentleman said about the rather secretive way in which London Transport has dealt with this matter of the three new lines. If the public had been told, its appetite would have been whetted and it would have seen what vision London Transport had. The right hon. Gentleman should not hide his light under a bushel but should publish the fullest information about these lines, including their cost, and put in the strongest plea to his colleagues for the cost of tunnelling to be borne in the way I have suggested.
I am not sure that I agreed with the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) when he said that it was useful for the Minister to speak early in the debate. I know that that is the normal procedure in this kind of debate, but it tends to give a sense of finality to the proceedings when there is much more which can be said on the subject. It is a pity that not more hon. Members on both sides of the House are present to say it.
I shall be mercifully brief, but, as a member of the Select Committee, I want to say a few extra words on its behalf. I was interested in what the Minister said in defence of his own. Departmental witnesses. His defence was perfectly proper and certainly very constitutional, but I do not think that it was a matter of chance that the document in question was described as half baked. It was not that phrase which troubled the Committee, but the whole general attitude of the Ministry to some of the ideas of the Transport Board and in this case, incidentally, of the railways. There was a suggestion that "father knew best" and that the Ministry knew a lot about the subject, that the time was not right, that the document was something of a nuisance and ought to be suppressed. That was the suspicion of the Select Committee. That is why we wrote as strongly as we did, and I think that we were thoroughly justified.
While the Select Committee has not been exactly attacked for it, it has been suggested that we were somewhat hard on the Transport Board in saying that it was not as imaginative, up to date and forward looking as it should be. It is a magnificent transport undertaking, of course, as such and certainly does a vast amount of routine work efficiently from day to day, but, as a member of the Select Committee, I got the impression that the management had a tendency to lean a little too much on past glories, on the great traditions of London Transport. There seemed to be a feeling that if only someone would intervene from outside, the old golden days would return and the present problems would vanish.
Those days will not return. Many of the passengers have gone, and they have gone for good because today the ordinary man runs a motor car and he will not be easily parted from it. He will use his car for every kind of journey for as long as he thinks it right to do so from his point of view. It is, therefore, hard for the modern London Transport to reconcile its obligation to give a universal standard of service with its equal obligation to make the service pay financially.
I draw the attention of the House again to the remedies which the Select Committee proposed for this state of affairs. We were against what is usually known as an opened-ended subsidy. As a Socialist, I think that in some circumstances it is perfectly right for the community to subsidise services. It never horrifies me as a principle. But, on the evidence, I do not think that it is necessary in this case. Provided the community takes over responsibility for the financial charges of the expansion of the underground system, on the evidence put before us we felt that the undertaking could give a high degree of service and still pay its way. We may be wrong in that supposition and only the future can tell, but we thought that that would make an excellent start, not an open-ended but a strictly limited subsidy which would take from the undertaking a burden which it is not fair for it to have to carry.
We laid down certain additional conditions for the undertaking to prosper. These were that there should be a great improvement in economy in the use of labour and much higher productivity. Although we did not say this in the Report, they should be combined with the highest possible pay for the workers. They should go together. If there is higher efficiency and higher productivity, there should certainly be the highest possible wages and the best possible conditions.
Certainly there should be more room for the buses to run on the streets, although there is a limit to what can be done in that direction. Certainly there should be a new major development of the underground system in Central London. In a great city as congested as London is, it is obviously commonsense to burrow underground and take passenger traffic below rather than on the surface in the streets. It is regrettable that in the post-war years—and it is now 20 years since the end of the war—there has not been further development of the magnificent London tube system.
There is now time to make amends and it should be done rapidly. The third condition which we laid down in our Report for the prosperity of the transport undertaking in London in future was that there should be more research and continuous application of science and technology at every level of the organisation. I do not think that that point has been made so far, but if hon. Members study our Report in detail they will see that we give plenty of evidence in support of this contention.
We took evidence from a variety of people, from the Ministry, the Treasury, from the Chairman of the Board and his assistants, from the Rates Tribunal, and I think we took evidence from one of the consultative bodies. All of this evidence was very valuable to the Committee in our judgment of the efficiency of the undertaking. We were bound to touch—and we did more than touch, we went into some detail—upon working conditions, schedules for the running of buses and similar matters. This meant that we trespassed beyond what is believed to be the boundary of a Select Committee. We discussed labour relations. That was inevitable. One cannot avoid doing it when one is conducting an investigation into the efficiency and effectiveness of an undertaking of this size, where labour is obviously so important.
But there were bodies from whom the Select Committee did not take evidence and they were the trade unions. This was most regrettable. It may be that some unions would not wish to give evidence, but to try to examine the efficiency of a great undertaking of this kind without taking evidence from the unions, from those who are responsible for supplying or organising the labour, is unrealistic in the extreme in my view.
I believe that in the future working of the Committee, and there is a great deal of work ahead of us in other directions, we must get away from the inhibition placed upon us not to talk to the trade unions because we might become involved in labour relations questions. Whethe we like it or not we are bound to be involved. As a member of the Select Committee I now regret that we did not take evidence from the trade unions. I hope that in similar circumstances in future we are going to do so.
I should like to say a few words on the subject of traffic congestion, which seems to me to be at the heart of the problem today. I do not approach this question in a partisan spirit. I doubt if there are any party political points to make and the subject is far too important for that. On page 61 of the Report of the Select Committee, in paragraph 212, one reads
Congestion, say the Board, is getting worse.
That must be the understatement of the decade. The population of London is nearly 9 million, and 1½ million people travel in and out of London every day. If those people marched in single file past a given point it would take them 10 days and 10 nights to pass. Yet every day they come into London and go out that same day. We have heard from the
Chairman of the Committee that in the last 10 years the number of vehicles coming into London has increased by 44 per cent. It is revealing that the number of passengers coming in has decreased by 10 per cent. It is significant that over two-thirds of the cars coming into London daily are occupied only by the driver.
This ridiculous situation, this low capacity utilisation, is a major factor in the traffic problem. This situation was brought home to me very vividly a fortnight ago when I flew back from Dusseldorf to London in just under an hour. It took me one and a quarter hours to get from Paddington to Westminster during that same week. Traffic from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner literally ground to a halt, and it took longer to get from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner than it did to get from Dusseldorf to London. This condition has been referred to as the "glue-pot", and it is going on all round London and many other towns. This means that time is not on our side and that unless very unpopular and drastic measures are taken straight away total thrombosis will come to London, and thrombosis is lethal.
Who is going to solve this problem? In the debate on the Gracious Speech, when the question of transport and technology was raised, the Minister said:
Of course, they asked me what I am going to do to deal with the congestion between now and Christmas. I can only say that I am in the closest touch all the time with the Greater London Council and with the Metropolitan Police, and I understand that on Thursday of this week, two days hence, they will announce their plans to deal with the problem of London traffic in this period leading up to Christmas. It is their responsibility. I think it takes a bit of swallowing, all this nonsense, all this criticism from the Opposition that the Minister of Transport, who has no legal authority to intervene at all, should somehow or another just push aside the greatest local authority in the world, and which got its present responsibility for roads only some six months ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1965 Vol. 720, c. 967.]
I am not going to ask the Minister to push aside the Greater London Council but one has to go into this a little more deeply. If one reads in the Report of the Select Committee, the evidence which was taken on 19th May one finds the Chairman asking questions of Mr. P. F. Stott, who is the Director of Highways
and Transportation. The Chairman said to him at question 1456:
…do I understand that the G.L.C. will have now powers to make major decisions without approval of the Ministry of Transport, or will you have to submit them to the Ministry of Transport? What part will the Minister play in determining general policy for traffic control?
(Mr. Stott.) In all these elements where they effect major expenditures the Government is involved and the Government must be carried along with these schemes. This is the real limitation on a body like the G.L.C. in terms of deciding something and making the decision effective.
I naturally agree with what Mr. Stott is saying. To use his words, the Government "is involved in this". I listened carefully to the Minister's speech and I felt that he gave us only a vague indication of what the Government are thinking. I wish that he would tell us a great deal more. I realise that the solution of London's traffic problem or the solution of any traffic problem of any conurbation is a massive task and will take time. I am a great believer in the reform of Parliament and I was very disappointed that we did not agree to extend specialist committees. I say this with some trepidation because, although the shadow Minister of Transport is not here, he is very much against the extension of the committees, as is the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I believe, with respect, that they are both wrong and I should have thought that the subject of congestion in London would be an ideal subject for study by a specialist committee.
If we could have 10 or 12 Members of Parliament studying this problem intensely for the next six months and calling for evidence from the many experts who are available and who have studied the problem in depth, we should be in a much better position to chase, criticise and, indeed, help the Minister of Transport. I was very disappointed that the Government were so conservative over the question of Parliamentary reform. I thought that, perhaps, this new Administration would be more radical. In the meantime, our debates suffer. That is possibly why so few Members are present during the debate on this very important subject.
I urge the Minister to take immediate action. I realise that any action which he takes to deal with cars and congestion in London will be extremely unpopular with some people. If it is any comfort to him, I can assure him that he will be even less popular if he does not do anything about this matter. I do not urge him to push aside the Greater London Council. I urge him to accept the responsibility now.
We read in the newspaper today what the Kent County Surveyor said in London yesterday, namely:
Already so many motor vehicles are being licensed in London that there are fewer than six yards of carriageway in the area available to each. If car ownership continues to rise in accordance with the present trend, by 1970 there will not be sufficient length of road to allow the vehicles to stand bumper to bumper".
The Minister may have seen—I hope that he has—the report of the working party set up by the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors. It was set up at the beginning of this year and, by its terms of reference, was told to produce a plan for 1966 and another plan for 1970. The plan for 1966 has already been published. If the Minister has the will, he could carry out the plan by the end of next year.
The plan is very drastic indeed. No doubt it will be opposed, as all these plans are opposed, by many organisations. But the truth is that the motoring public should understand that it is in their own interest to accept the main recommendation of this working party, which is to limit the number of private cars coming into the centre of London at peak hours. This is no occasion to discuss in detail the question of road pricing or the interesting views which Mr. Roth and others have put forward, on the subject. But it is clear that if the price of road use on congested roads is raised, the proceeds could be used to reduce the price payable on uncongested roads. This is not sufficiently understood by motorists.
I believe that the case for some form of road pricing is fully made out, but I appreciate that a great deal of argument will have to take place on the best method. The working party to which I have referred came down firmly in favour of a special entry licence. This would be quite simple to operate. It could be easily based on a daily basis. The licence would be exhibited through the windscreen and would be valid for one day.
The working party suggested an annual licence. It further suggested that this annual licence would have to cost at least as much again as ordinary car taxation
This is a difficult subject. Clearly exceptions will have to be made for the doctors, nurses, police and other special cases. But I do not believe that this system of licensing would cause undue administrative difficulty. The great thing is that the scheme could be brought into operation fairly quickly. I hope that the Minister will consider this matter as one of urgency. I know that this is not popular, but it is right.
Secondly, the working party suggests that car owners should be encouraged to fill their cars with passengers. As I have said, two-thirds of the cars have only the driver in them. As compensation for the additional wear and tear, car owners should be entitled to charge their passengers a fee. I realise that this may need legislation. It may necessitate a review of insurance arrangements. But it would go quite a long way in relieving traffic congestion. It seems to me common sense.
The measures which I have suggested are purely short term and in no way remove the necessity for the long-term planning schemes—the large capital expenditure on new roads and adequate parking space about which we all agree. This must be undertaken as a matter of great urgency over the next 10 years. But the problem has come upon us more quickly than we realised it would. Interim measures are necessary. None of the measures which I have suggested would be popular. I hazard a guess that for many years no Minister of Transport, whatever his party, will be popular. What I do hope is that the present Minister will be brave.
I listened with considerable interest to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry). I am glad that he spoke, however briefly, about one of the two most important aspects of London Transport which has been curiously neglected in this debate: perhaps, because we have been a little inhibited by the assumed terms of reference of the Select Committee. The hon. Member was absolutely right to insist that half the problem lies in the physical congestion of the roads arising from the ever-increasing growth in the number of motorcars and the fact that we simply have not been able, in spite of modifications, to adapt our road system to cope with it. This is one of the two great problems and, obviously, a whole range of policy proposals are necessary if we are to find a solution.
The other major problem was the one expressed by my right hon. Friend the Minister, which was mentioned in the recent report of the London Transport Board and expressed again in the Report of the Select Committee. It is now becoming almost impossible for the London Transport Board to reconcile its two obligations—to pay its way, as is normal in publicly-owned industries, and to provide a reasonable service to transport users. This is the nub of the problem.
Looking back over the past 10 years, what has happened is that London Transport has, as it were, given primacy to fulfilling its financial obligations—it has somehow managed to pay its way—but all the time the quality of service has diminished. It is the quality of service that has been allowed to deteriorate over the last 10 years. I am not framing an indictment, because I agree with the hon. Member for Chippenham and I do not wish to be over polemical about this. I rather resented the slightly polemical tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster).
The problem is caused by the vast increase in the number of people coming to work in London during these years and the decline in the number of people who are able to come in by road transport, the decline being due to the falling-off in the number of buses and the increase in the uneconomic use of private cars. London Transport has found it increasingly difficult to meet its two obligations. During the last 10 years, this has been mainly reflected in the decline in service. Now we have reached the stage when we are getting not only declining service but an inability by the Board to pay its way, so that it is now unable to meet either obligation.
What is in some ways the most important point for future policy is what should be done financially to help to deal with the situation. As I listened to the speeches this afternoon from the two sides of the House, it became fairly clear that most hon. Members had moved away from the idea that London Transport is an ordinary publicly-owned industry to which can be applied the ordinary criteria, whether those laid down in the Acts which set up these publicly-owned bodies or those laid down in the White Paper of 1961. There is, in other words, something special.
We have had a variety of suggestions from the two sides of the House about how London Transport's special difficulties could be met by different kinds of financial concessions. This is a point on which the Select Committee might have been more helpful. This was where the Select Committee was not as good as I should have liked it to be, because it did not bring out with the clarity that we need, which I am sure the Minister would be glad to have, the special nature of the problems that face London Transport. What precisely are they, why should we treat them so differently and can we quantify in terms of £.s.d. what these special disadvantages are? That is the kind of information which we might have hoped to obtain from a first-rate inquiry into the problem.
Let me illustrate with one or two points. We all know, for example, that there is always a special problem in any publicly-owned undertaking which provides a service. London Transport in this respect has the same sort of problem as the Air Corporations, and certainly the same as British Railways used to have until relieved of its special responsibilities: in other words, a duty to provide a service in good season and in bad, when traffic is heavy and when it is light.
That is the essence of a public service. It must be there, and it must be available for the people. London Transport has that problem. It would be interesting to have some idea of what the cost of that is, in particular. But it is not its only problem, because London Transport has an extra problem which is absolutely unique, and I am surprised how few hon. Members have identified it. It is the problem of the tidal wave. It is an enormous problem, and one or two hon. Members have referred to the Report on the point.
I would draw attention to Appendix 2, paragraph 7, and I will quote two sentences from it which read as follows:
The very high morning and evening peaks, intensified by the standardisation of working hours, necessitate the provision of large quantities of expensive capital equipment, much of which is only used to capacity for a few hours of the day and on only five days in seven.
It gives two illustrations:
Thus on Central Buses more than one-third of the buses and on the Underground nearly one-half of the carriages stand idle between the peak hours.
That is a phenomenon, and there is nothing that I can draw attention to which is comparable to it. The Select Committee has drawn attention to it, but it has not put a value on it, and the London Transport Board has not been able to say what the cost of it is. If we could make the right kind of analysis and get to the facts we would find that that, more than anything else, is what is inflicting these punishing costs on the public transport undertaking.
The third point which one should make as a special feature of the difficulties of public transport is simply the old problem of road-rail economics. As we know, there is a double standard. Roads are provided and users are not expected to pay directly for the use of them, whereas the users of rail transport are. That has always made it very difficult to apply conventional economic criteria——
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman at the moment because I am a little anxious about the time and I have a few more remarks to make.
As I was saying, there is that double standard and, for all these reasons, the ordinary rules of economics do not apply to transport, particularly to urban transport. It is probably because of that that some people have recently tried to develop a whole new theory of transport economics, including the social cost, social benefit analysis, which can be helpful in giving a guide to economic decision-making.
Those are the special problems, but before one can get a sensible policy towords transport and solving the problems one must know a good deal more about the actual costs of these special factors, because only when we know about them can we devise a sensible system of support for London Transport.
We know that it needs support, but it is no good saying, on the one hand, "We do not want an open-ended subsidy", or, on the other hand, saying, "The best way to solve the Board's problems is to get rid of its obligations to service capital." Whether that is enough, I do not know. Whether an open-ended subsidy is right, I do no: know, but I do not think anybody else knows either, and that is the trouble. We simply do not know, because this kind of basic analysis has not yet been made.
What we are all anxious to do is to find ways of doing several things with a single instrument. Obviously, as my right hon. Friend said in his important statement of principle tonight, he wants to expand and improve the provision of public transport. I am sure that this is right. At the same time, he wants to get increased use of public transport, to get people to move away from the private motor car. But the third point that he has to tell us is that we must have more money to expand these services, and, because we need more money, we have to raise fares. But the two things are in conflict, and this, I know, is the difficulty.
My right hon. Friend wants to do something else to relieve the pressure. He wants to stagger hours, but we have found no means of doing this. He also wants to decongest industry and offices from London, and I know that other powers are being used to encourage people to move out of London.
For all those purposes, I am not satisfied either with the subsidy, on the one hand, or, on the other, the doctrine of economic purity—somewhat less pure than it use to be—that we have heard from the other side of the House today. It is because I see the conflict between the two objectives that I urge the Minister to think of something different, something in the form of a levy or tax on employers, on the people who create this tidal wave of traffic which is in itself so expensive to accommodate, with 1,200,000 people coming into London early in the morning and going out again in the evening.
One phrase used by my right hon. Friend stuck in my mind. He said that the people who created the congestion ought to have to pay for it in future. Who does create the congestion? There are two villains. One is the private motor car. There is no doubt about that. The private motorist causes congestion in the crush hours, not outside them. Indeed, there is no transport problem in London outside the crush hours.
The people who create the congestion are, first, the private motorist, and, secondly, the employer who, by his hours of work and by the location of his work, insists on bringing into London 1,200,000 people within a couple of hours in the morning and sending them out again in the evening. If my right hon. Friend means that these are the two groups of people at whom he is directing his thoughts and policy in the future, I shall be very contented indeed.
I hope that the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) will not mind if, in order to be brief, I do not follow him in all his arguments but merely say that it is interesting to note how contagious the influence of the Bow Group can be. The hon. Gentleman is nearer to being a member of it than I am.
I should like to discuss the aspect of the Report which deals with London's bus services. The Board, the Minister and the Committee have agreed that at the present time London Transport is not fulfilling its obligation to give the public an adequate service, and, as the hon. Member for Stepney asked, what new approach can we make to this?
That London Transport is not providing an adequate service is proved by the fact that on its road services 19 million bus miles are lost each year either through shortage of staff or through traffic problems. The Minister and other hon. Members have discussed the various suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman has made to improve congestion on the roads. Some of these suggestions have merit, some are a bit vague, and all those which are going to be effective are punitive, but, significantly, he—and everybody else today—has omitted competition, or, if people prefer it, the augmentation of London Transport bus services by municipal or independent operators.
In order that I may not be thought to be going too far out of order I should say that this matter is dealt with in paragraphs 83–95 of the Report. These lay down the conditions under which non-London Transport buses are allowed to operate in what is called the "Special Area". Paraphrasing fairly quickly, the procedure is that any operator who wishes to operate in the Special Area has to apply to London Transport for its consent. If that consent is given he can apply to the Transport Commissioner, appointed by the Minister—whose attention I would like to have, if possible, for an occasional second during my speech. I am putting forward a new, interesting and dramatic opportunity for him to make a name for himself, although I fear that it will probably be my right hon. Friend who will shortly be Minister and who will be able to carry out these proposals. I am therefore looking even more anxiously for his agreement to what I am saying.
First, the independent operator must get the consent of London Transport and, following that, the consent of the Traffic Commissioner. If consent by London Transport is refused he is allowed to appeal to the Traffic Commissioner, and if consent is again refused he can apply to the Minister, although this happens in very few cases. For the Board's ethos in this matter I quote from paragraphs 93 and 94. Paragraph 93 says:
In evidence to Your Committee the Board"—
in the person of Sir Alec Valentine—
took exception to the right of appeal of an unsuccessful independent operator against a refusal by the Board".
Paragraph 94 says:
The Board object to it on the ground that there is no value in depriving them of their power to control the extent of private operations within the Special Area
and the concluding lines in the chapter read as follows:
Your Committee prefer to wait for evidence of hardship before making any comment on this matter.
I realise that the hardship referred to here is the hardship of the independent operator or the Board, but I feel that the hardship of the individual traveller, which is often forgotten, deserves some mention. There are occasions—not in the crush hours—when, in the outer suburban areas, in which my constituency is situated, people wait for hour after hour in the hope that a scheduled bus will turn up, and it does not. We must bend our minds to this situation, which I fear
the Committee did not seem to grasp to the extent that it should have.
A service is not a service at all unless it is a good service. Furthermore, a good transport service manufactures its own passengers. The Minister gave us a very moving and accurate demonstration of the vicious circle which operates—the bad bus service driving people into cars, and the extra cars making the roads more congested thereby making the bus services worse and driving still more people into cars. This is a fact, but the right hon. Gentleman laid too much stress on traffic difficulties and not enough on the loss of bus mileage because of staff difficulties.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that it is strange that, in the 10 years from 1954 to 1964, there has been an increase of 9 per cent. in the London Transport Board's railway passengers, whereas, over the same period, the number of those travelling by bus dropped by 32 per cent.? I accept that one would expect a big drop in the number of bus users, but not a drop of 32 per cent. when a larger number of people than before—an increase of nearly 10 per cent.—used the trains.
That is why I feel that these figures go a long way to proving that it is the inferiority of the services offered which causes a drop in the number of people who travel rather than the congestion on the roads. In todays's Harrow Post there is another example of deterioration of services which the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who have spoken seem to accept as one of the facts of life. The report says:
London Transport have announced their intention to introduce cuts in the services on January 23 in an attempt to cope with the shortage of staff.
Mr. Val Deegan, the representative of the Transport and General Workers Union at Harrow Weald Garage, is reported as having said:
I am opposed to this area traffic scheme, a thinly veiled form of introducing cuts in the services to the detriment of both the public and the staff.
This seems to be the pattern. When there is a shortage of staff, new services are introduced and it is said that, with the smaller staff, these can be run. Then they are allowed to fail and, a year later, further cuts are begun. What we need are
more buses for more miles on more roads, giving more service and making more profits. I believe that that can be produced. There is a parable here—
There is a parable here, of the man who owned three "pirate" buses in 1932. In order to run him out of business, the London Passenger Transport Board put a bus in front of each of his pirates and one behind. After a month's operation, all nine buses were showing a bigger turnover than previously.
The hon. Member is making very heavy weather of this. If he had read the evidence given to the Select Committee, he would know that these points are well covered in a whole series of questions and he would have discovered that, since 1955, London Transport has granted 49 applications for consent to operate stage carriage services wholly or partly within the special area, of which 27 are still operating and the remaining twelve operated and were subsequently withdrawn.
Further, in this series of questions which the hon. Member evidently has not read, he would have found that several applications have been submitted to the Board from time to time, and they have given consideration to quite a number, but, on 23rd February this year, only 12 were still operating.
I should be grateful if the Chairman of the Select Committee would read the next page of my speech when it appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I was about to quote from these questions and answers, which begin with No. 307. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong, and that 21, not 12, operators are still running services on independent routes, but I will accept the figure as 12 if he would prefer it. That makes even more absurd the argument that independent operators are encouraged—as I believe they should be—to help London Transport.
Another significant point is that, except possibly at terminal points, none of those services—indeed, no service—is allowed to pick up and put down on a London Transport route. If the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) will read paragraph 103 he will see that there was at that time an appeal because a bus company running from Southend to London wanted to stop at Romford to set down and pick up. London Transport, in its usual monopolistic, dog-in-the-manger way, utterly rejected that.
Things are even worse. One can understand London Transport taking the view "what we have we hold", but one would have thought that it would be in the public interest that on suitable occasions suitable independent operators should be given the opportunity to help London Transport when it is in staff and bus difficulties. Because time is short, I will read only three extracts which illustrate this. The first is to the editor of the Middlesex Chronicle. It was published in January, 1963, but it applies just as much today. After noting letters complaining about London Transport services, the paper stated:
Quite apart from difficulties caused by the exceptional weather conditions, services on sections of route 117, in particular, have been seriously affected from time to time by traffic congestion at peak hours and by staff cuts; these have been caused by an acute shortage of drivers and conductors at Hounslow garage and by sickness.
It went on later:
…every effort is being made to maintain the scheduled service as well as possible.
An independent operator, already operating in that area, acknowledged to be efficcient and properly licensed, replied:
It is realised that it may be difficult for you to do this and it was in this connection that the writer asked for an appointment with the object of giving assistance in this direction by putting forward a proposition whereby our Coaches be used as standby or utilised to supplement any service which you are unable to provide through the causes mentioned in your letter. For example, in the event of Drivers not showing up for duty a Coach could be used to make up the running, especially in regard to your 116 Service in which we are especially interested.
That was a reasonable and intelligent offer by a responsible individual and company. The answer given by London Transport was:
While I appreciate your offer of assistance by means of operating your coaches on a standby or supplementary basis, the method which, as you say, we adopted in the immediate postwar years to strengthen our services, this could not be applied now as it arose from a different set of circumstances.
I will not delay the House by reading the remainder of the reply but I assure hon. Members that there was nothing in it which excused the refusal of London Transport to augment is services, which it agrees had failed the community.
If many of those people who earlier—not now, because they will probably have arrived home at this hour—between six and seven o'clock, were waiting for buses which did not come, in crowded conditions, in the cold and the rain—apart from others who during the non-peak hours were waiting for services which did not arrive—realised that the Board, backed, I suspect, by the Minister and hon. Gentleman opposite, had refused to keep those services going, they would stone the Board and stone the Minister; and they might possibly be justified in doing so. I should have felt like it myself had I been waiting for an hour for one of those buses.
The people of London are not prepared to stand idly by for much longer while the Government and the Board do nothing. There is a blindfold attitude on the part of the Board and the Minister—and I think that the Select Committee was wearing dark glasses in regard to this matter—a blindfold determination to maintain the attitude of, "What I have I hold, and I don't care who waits for the buses that don't come." That is the philosophy, and I think that it is degrading.
I do not know whether I am out of order in doing so, but I would mention that on 8th February, under the Ten-Minute Rule, I hope to introduce a short Bill to make competition more easy in the London Transport area for municipal or independent operators to try to break the monopoly which is strangling the comfort, and badly affecting the lives of many Londoners today.
The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) said that he felt that the Board and the Minster ought to be stoned. I had to pause to realise that it was his side of the House that had responsibility for London Transport for very many years, and perhaps that I would not be out of order in challenging the hon.
Gentleman to say whether he would have the guts to pick up the first stone—
With all due deference and respect, I think that whilst the Report of the Select Committee is full of interesting data and expertise, and although this debate has been full of interesting figures—hon. Members have obviously been well-informed—what has been lacking in both is a sense of urgency. There does not seem to be a sense of vitality about this incredibly difficult problem. That is noticeable, because it is lacking. Neither do I feel that this debate accurately reflects the widespread dissatisfaction that exists over London Transport. We have had a number of suggestions, but they have been made before. The only new one came, once again, from the hon. Member for Harrow, West. He played with "pirates", admitted that he had lost his way, and then invited the Minister to follow him. I did not consider that a very good contribution.
We must all agree that London Transport has an extraordinary and complicated task. It has a massive responsibility to move people about, not only, comfortably but safely. It has a very fine record in that respect, and I pay tribute to it now. In doing that, one has ipso facto to pay a tribute to the bus drivers and conductors of London Transport. In many respects we have not taken enough cognisance of their views. Here, some of the fault may lie with the trade unions, and that should be said. The trade unions have not taken enough cognisance of the views of their members in the garages.
It seems that the only time when either London Transport or the unions are suddenly concerned with those views is when a particular garage has been driven to demonstrate its exasperation by calling a strike. Everyone is interested then, but, until then, as long as the buses are rolling and things are moving, no one seems to have any interest at all in the bus drivers or the conductors. Although my right hon. Friend has no responsibility for the day-to-day running, perhaps he will discover some ingenious method of pointing out this attitude to London Transport, and perhaps some of my colleagues on the trade union side will do the same to the trade unions involved.
One of the important features of any form of public transport is not only good relations with the staff and work people, but also the necessity at all times to maintain good relations with the public. How can we expect London Transport to have good relations with the public which sees the London bus problem on something like the following lines? If one has to travel in the centre of London one can wait probably 25 or 30 minutes for a bus, and when it comes it is in convoy. The first bus in the convoy arrives and there is a mad rush to get on to it. Then people dash to the second bus, and every third or fourth person who gets on the bus hurls abuse at the conductor and invites him to pass that abuse on to the driver.
Probably the reason for those buses coming in convoy is that half an hour down the route the buses were held up in a massive snarl-up of traffic. They were detained behind 30 or 40 cars and a couple of lorries. A bus may have come from the garage to the first stop in two minutes but it has then been held up for 20 minutes on some part of the route. Then the private cars and lorries have turned off and enabled a number of buses to catch up with one another, so that they all arrive at the point where people are waiting. The people are exasperated; probably the driver is practically "going off his nut" and the poor conductor or conductress has to suffer abuse from the mounting irritation. This is the state of public transport in the greatest city in the world. We all ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
It is no use looking at the problem from the point of view of what has happened in the past, and trying to apply in a more stringent or severe form remedies which have failed to produce the answer in the past. Let us consider the fact that London Transport suffers from staff shortages. It is not merely a question of wages. The House should realise that it is not impossible for a London bus driver to take a busload of people to work at 7 o'clock in the morning and the same driver to take them back home at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. The same driver may taken them out for their pint at the local or to the cinema at half-past 7 in the evening. It is not merely a question of remuneration which has caused the staff shortage, but the almost incredible split hours which they have to work.
Consequently they are tempted not to drive buses. They would rather be passengers who can start at half-past 7 in the morning and finish at 5 o'clock. They would not mind waiting half an hour for a bus at either end of the day rather than working the whole day with the odd split hours which are necessary to be worked. There problems have not been examined in enough detail, nor have some of the reasons for staff shortages.
Another problem is that of street congestion. We all know how vicious is the spiral. There does not seem anyone with the knowledge, or perhaps even the guts to tackle it. I have often played with the idea—I do not know whether this is possible—of defining what we mean by Central London and passing an Act of Parliament saying that the only people who may drive private cars into London on a Monday are those whose car registration numbers begin with an odd figure.
I do not know if the hon. Member has read a letter which appeared in the Daily Telegraph today, from a bus driver saying that the chief trouble caused by private cars is not in Central London but in the outer suburbs where parked cars prevent buses being driven on the side of the road and force them into the middle of the road.
I confess that I have not read that letter. I must say that I am surprised at a London bus driver writing to the Daily Telegraph or even reading it. However, the point is valid and I will refer to it later.
We all deplore street congestion. The suggestion I have made is not absurd, but may be impractical. It is sometimes a good idea to start with a suggestion which seems impractical, because one is committed to ending up with a solution which is practical. I do not know whether the Minister has any responsibility in this respect. He may be able to pass it on to the Cabinet. The idea should be examined. The London Transport Board cannot be blamed for street congestion. It is not the fault of the Board. Street congestion arises because we are all greedy; we want to use our cars; we are all impatient.
The Report refers to the Board's proposition to have a larger Routemaster bus, one which will carry 64 passengers as opposed to that which carries 56. I am not sure that this is the right answer. We want more buses more often at the bus stops. I do not think that larger buses by themselves will be the answer. The perfect answer, if we could have it, would be larger buses more often, though I would be happy if smaller buses arrived at the bus stops much more often.
I recognise that the immediate challenge will be that if it is desired to have smaller buses travelling more often, more staff will be required, and there is already a staff problem. If there were more transport, it is probable that a more reasonable shift could be worked out for those who must operate the buses. It might be possible to put a man on a straight four-hour shift and for him then to be off for eight hours. He might be put on a six-hour shift. If there could be more buses running more often, although it might sound a paradox, this might be the answer to some of the staff problems.
The two main duties laid on the London Transport Board by Parliament are to provide an adequate service to the public in the London area and at the same time to pay its way. The last phrase—to pay its way—is the nub of the problem. I ask hon. Members to imagine what would happen if that were said about sewers. What would happen if it were said about the Navy, the Army, or the Royal Air Force—"They have not had a little war recently. They are not paying their way." This is the incredibly stupid way in which we deal with something which is sensible—by forcing it to pay its way.
Those who have examined this problem and who are now acknowledged to be people of some authority, such as those who drew up the Buchanan Report, have a great deal of sympathy with my view. I do not pretend to have a great knowledge of transport other than what I think could be done intelligently; and sensibly on a general premise. Paragraph 457 of the Buchanan Report says this:
In the long run the most potent factor in obtaining a 'ceiling' on private car traffic in busy areas is likely to be the provision of good, cheap public transport, coupled with the
public's understanding of the position. The last is essential, and is indeed one of the reasons why we have endeavoured to write this Report in non-technical language for the general reader. But the attractions of private cars are very great, and there can be no denying the difficulties of providing public transport services so intrinsically convenient that they will attract optional car traffic off the roads in appreciable quantities. But, given a different financial policy, travel by public transport could he made relatively cheap, and this may prove to be the key to the problem in the long term.
I say "Hear hear" to that. I think that it could be.
The hon. Member is suggesting that if public transport were cheap it would attract people who now use their motor cars. In my constituency the commuter problem is acute. It is murderous, because the trains are already packed and bursting at the seams. If that transport is made cheaper the trains will explode.
We will examine that later on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Now."] I am quite prepared to examine it now. Let us look at what is involved. The reason why we have not enough trains is that they have to be tied to a budget. If we say that we will not have a budget but will concentrate on providing a public service and not be weighed down by the cost, this will be more advantageous. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member's constituents would agree that they would be prepared to pay a little more in rates and taxes and have more trains rather than travel like sardines.
The problem has been stated several times today. It is all part of the vicious circle which seemed to start with the fares increases. In 1952 there was a substantial increase in fares and the vicious circle started. Immediately after the increase there was a loss of passengers. People decided to use their cars. When they decided to use their cars there was more congestion on the roads and the snarl-ups increased, to cause further frustration for the private motorist and the bus driver and his conductor. Consequently, there was a loss of staff to London Transport, and because people were packing up their jobs with London Transport, there were fewer buses, and because there were fewer buses there was less revenue, and because there was less revenue the fares were increased.
I was horrified today to hear the Minister almost agree that this is what he will do again. He is to seek improvements, but I think that he said that he was going to put up the fares. This is the worst thing that he could do. I am glad that in an intervention the effect of the congestion and hold-ups in Central London on people in the outer suburbs was mentioned. This is an important point. In my constituency the ramifications of snarl-ups in Central London can affect people in Ealing, Northolt and Greenford. Because buses have been held up in Shepherds Bush, people have to wait for them in Northolt and Green-ford. They do not know what the bus drivers have gone through in trying to negotiate Shepherds Bush or Southall High Street in massive snarl-ups. All they know is that their road is empty and that after they have waited 30 minutes the buses come along in convoy. The ramifications of the jams and snarl-ups spread far out of London into other areas, making matters even worse for people living in the suburbs.
I have heard from my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary almost ad nauseam that they have nothing to do with the day-to-day running of London Transport. It is about time that we found who was responsible. People in my constituency are getting more than a little tired of the appalling services which we have in Ealing and especially in Greenford and Northolt. I do ont blame them for having inundated me with petitions and complaints. People complain that they cannot get to work on time and cannot get home from work in a reasonable time. Industrialists have complained to me that many of their key workers, important men, cannot get to work on the Perivale Industrial Estate, working at Hoovers, for example, because of the transport situation.
But this shows the massive subsidies which some industrialists are getting from London Transport which has to get workers to work and back home. This is one of the aspects of the matter which would be worth studying with a view to seeing whether industrialists ought not to make a bigger contribution to the financial resources of London Transport.
I understand that from time to time the Board takes cognisance of recommendations from local authorities and from the transport users' consultative committees. A number of people in my constituency, concerned about the deterioration of public transport in the area, decided to do something constructive instead of just sitting down and moaning and groaning about it. The idea evolved from the trades councils of Ealing, Hillingdon and Southall. A transport committee was set up including men and women with some knowledge of transport. The secretary is Mr. Les Batchelor, who is a bus conductor, and whom I would immediately recommend for a place on the Board, for I have never known a man with such a knowledge of London Transport.
They considered what suggestions they could make and in their spare time they studied routes and noted intervals between buses and timed journeys and compared schedules on Sundays with those for the rest of the week and eventually, after three or four months' spare time work, they drew up a most detailed and informative report which they submitted to London Transport. They hoped that the Board would have the decency to ask them to come and discuss it. They had only a reply to their covering note, but a reply by itself is not sufficient. A problem of this magnitude cannot he dealt with by letters between London Transport and the secretary of this local committee of the trades council.
All that they wanted to do was to be able to go to London Transport and fill in some of the details. They have made very well-informed proposals, but so far they have been denied any chance of seeing the Board. I hope that the new Chairman of London Transport will be able to give me some encouragement by saying that he is prepared to see these people. They have taken into consideration the fact that the routes involved do not start in Southall, Ealing or Hillingdon. They appreciate that they may start and end elsewhere. Btu they have made a very detailed study in an attempt to improve the system, and I think that it is well worthy of examination by London Transport.
We have great red London buses travelling from Stoke Newington to Richmond or from Hackney to Fulham or from Ealing to Kensington. Is it not possible that in the outer suburbs we might set up a mini-bus system, whereby a number of small buses could carry people around the outer suburbs, rather than their having to wait for a large bus which cuts right across London? This might be examined as well. Unless we have the courage to acknowledge that we have to provide a public transport system which is a good and safe system and an adequate system, then we must acknowledge that without it and with further deterioration the effects will be far worse than people imagine. People might not be able to visit each other or go to work or football matches or the theatre. It could mean that the entire economy of the country could be affected, if all economic production in London is brought to a halt by a massive snarl-up and ruination of London Transport.
Having said that, I believe that I have indirectly paid a tribute to and outlined the importance of London Transport. If we acknowledge that this is so, let us put this fact on the high pedestal it deserves and let us say that we will give this great city a public transport system which is a social service. By so doing and not counting the cost in pounds, shillings and pence we will not only have, in the long run, an efficient service, happy Londoners and happier visitors to London; we will also have made a sensible and sound solution to the economy of the country.
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) because, like myself, he is a Londoner and we in the Greater London area know of the indignation felt by our constituents about the transport situation. A lot of speeches have been made expressing sympathy towards London Transport. It would deserve more sympathy if it had shown more determination and leadership in tackling the problems with which it has been faced. The transport system in London has resulted in excessive misery and suffering to London residents. It has caused more suffering than any other thing in recent years. It is a transport system which has warped the way of life of many people. It has affected their health. Many of my constituents spend up to three hours a day travelling on the London Transport system, because it does not work properly. As London Members, the hon. Member for Ealing, North and myself, know that transport, next to housing, is one of the most frequent questions raised by constituents. The London Transport system and public safety are questions raised with us more than almost any other.
I believe that most Londoners have a nightmare that these conditions will never get better. They have suffered this sort of thing for 20 years, and they have been cowed into submission by generations of bus conductors. They have absolutely no chance to give effect to their feelings. London Transport does not have a good consultative organisation. It is no good writing letters to 55, Broadway. It is like writing to Santa Claus: one never gets an answer. Although I have tried to take up certain cases in my constituency, I have found that after negotiation, and even after holding a meeting below the Chamber with London Transport Executive representatives, we have never got anywhere.
It is no good talking, as some people do, about a 10-year solution to our road and transport problems. Londoners look to a much quicker solution than that. They expect something to happen within two years. Many of these problems are outside the scope of London Transport and fall into the Minister's court. Perhaps one might say that over the years the L.C.C. was blameworthy in its very slow appreciation of the need for a proper road system in London. We are all glad to see new schemes coming forward from the G.L.C. But the public do not want to see just lines drawn on a map. They want action to be taken on things like motorway boxes and proper routes which will enable buses to get through within a reasonable time. I hope that within two years at most we shall see many schemes coming to fruition which will get over the problem of the "glue-pot" to which so much reference has been made today.
There are many other quite simple improvements which could be made. For example, extra bus lay-bys could be constructed. Many of our major roads through London could easily be widened where there are excessively wide forecourts and pavements. Nothing has been said about that this evening. I hope that roads like Finchley Road, which is cluttered up with buses, the Mile End Road and the Old Kent Road could benefit from widening which would not involve the demolition of houses. I hope that the Minister is taking due note of this.
Perhaps one of the most important single facets which could aid London Transport would be the increase of peak-hour clearways. Since the first ones have been such a success and have worked so well, I cannot understand why there has been this great hiatus in the programme for further clearways. The Minister should immediately impose these clearways on all the principal routes out of London.
I put a Parliamentary Question to the Minister five months ago on this very point and I received what I consider to have been a stonewalling reply. He said, in referring to the G.L.C.:
Following recent talks I had with them, they and the London Transport Board are to consider, with the Metropolitan Police, how public transport can be further helped by this means. Additional urban clearways will be among the possibilities considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1965; Vol. 717, c. 107.]
This is as far as we have got. In February this year this same point was raised by the London Transport Board as being the biggest single method by which the "glue-pot" could be cleared. Unfortunately, nothing has happened. May I express the hope to the Treasury Bench that action will very soon be taken along these lines.
Another factor raised specifically in the Select Committee's Report concerns the heavy commercial vehicles which go through the centre of London during the rush hours. Coming through the City today, I could not help but notice one of those hank vehicles which carry bullion parked on the corner, as usual, of Threadneedle Street. It is very often there, blocking the way, so that the traffic flow was reduced and causing even more congestion. This is the sort of matter which must be dealt with expeditiously. If London Transport is to make a success of its system it must look, not only to the G.L.C., but to the Minister to assist it.
It is sated on page 148 of the Report:
…the Board will require more foresight and drive than they have sometimes shown. Your Committee have drawn attention to a number of occasions on which the Board have done too little or done it too late.
The supplementary Report states that
there was little evidence that London Transport had itself been freshened by the import of a different kind of experience.
I suggest that a service which is so essential to London cannot be handled in this way.
We have to get more effective leadership into London Transport, more cooperation from the Ministry of Transport and closer association with the Greater London Council. That is why I am so pleased to see the Report which the Minister now has in his hands, which may form part of the solution for a new policy.
For many years Britain led the world in the construction of underground railways. Surely, it is time now that we should start to lead the world in a new technology of traffic engineering in this our great capital city.
I hesitate to intervene after two London Members have spoken since I represent a constituency a long way from London, but I speak as a member of the Select Committee and it might be to the advantage of the House if I try to draw together some of the threads of this afternoon's debate.
I should like to start by paying tribute to the witnesses who appeared before us in the Select Committee and thanking them for their co-operation and the helpful way in which they treated our questions. I believe that the Committee's Report is a valuable one and no small credit is due to our Chairman, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell), who handled the proceedings with his usual skill and under whom we were all so pleased to serve.
The usefulness of a Select Committee is principally in the way that it can probe the events of the past. To those hon. Members of the House, and to people outside it, who wish to extend the Select Committee principle to every sort of subject and inquiry, I make the distinction that it is the best instrument for probing past events but that is becomes far less effective when trying to form policy for the future.
This afternoon's debate has evidenced how many different points of view there are and how difficult it is to find a common solution among Members of Parliament who belong to different parties and hold differing views. The Minister's intervention was helpful to us concerning underground railways. We are glad to hear that he has schemes for the Victoria Line extension to Brixton and the Aldwych Line and is beginning to plan for the new Fleet Line. I was glad to hear him say that he will give the necessary powers and permissions as soon as he has had time to consider these proposals and that there will be no delay from his Ministry in handling the new schemes. The whole House would be unhappy if it felt that they were being held up.
I am not as certain as the Select Committee of the desirability of transferring the capital cost of the new lines to the Exchequer rather than asking the nationalised London Transport Board to pay interest on them. I say this hesitantly, but for the following reason. The relative cost of everything, including the expenditure of the London Transport Board, should be correctly weighed when the Board makes its assessments. If capital could be had for nothing for the construction of new lines, this could influence the Board to take wrong decisions. I should, therefore, prefer a different solution.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), in an excellent speech, talked more in terms of capital reconstruction at a suitable moment, and this might well be a solution which I should prefer. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said that he wanted specific subsidies at certain points, such as fuel tax remission, but I am not sure that this is the right method, because it would weight the relative cost of various items in the budget and might lead to uneconomical planning.
This afternoon, we had a very interesting statement by the Minister. He gave us a statement in two parts. First of all, we had a sort of declaration of intent which might have been committed to parchment, like the First Secretary's declaration of intent, and this side of the House may well treat it with the same suspicion as we treated the First Secretary's declaration of intent.
That has not been proved.
The Minister went on to outline four measures that he intends to take in answer to the Select Committee's points and to the benefit of London Transport in the future, and I would like to deal briefly with both the declaration of intent and the measures that he intends.
First of all, he is going to call a halt to the deterioration in the finances of London Transport. However, he has not told us how he is going to do it. It is something which he should all like to do, but why does the Minister not tell us by what means he intends to call a halt in the deterioration of the Board's finances. It was no more than a pious sentiment.
Secondly, he talked about measures to ensure the best use of the scarce road space in London and the suburbs. Again he did not say what measures. We are very interested in the subject, and we welcome the Report of the Greater London Council which makes some interesting suggestions about what should be done. But it is rather inconclusive, because it does not come down very firmly on one side or the other. We should all like to know more about what is going to happen and when it is going to be done.
I do not believe that the House has had sufficient opportunity to be acquainted with the contents of that Report. The Minister said that it was in large part an answer to the criticisms made by the Select Committee. If that is so, why did he not take steps to make it available to the House? It has not been available in the Vote Office, but both sides of the House should have had the document. Instead, a document germane to the debate has been sprung upon us today, and hon. Members have not had a chance to see it. I ask the Minister, in future, to use his good offices with the Greater London Council to make sure that similar documents are made available at an early stage so that hon. Members can be familiar with their contents when they come to debate them.
Thank you for that protection, Mr. Speaker. I may not be so knowledgeable about problems in the constituency of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) but I am fully conversant with the problems of moving about London. It was purely a compliment to the hon. Gentleman's constituents that I was trying to pay.
The third part of the declaration of intent dealt with the adequacy of the service. It is another pious intention to which we all subscribe, because we all want to see an adequate service. I think that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West was quite right in his speech to question whether it is adequate. Many hon. Members have made the same point, and we can all subscribe to it.
I do not think that it should be carried to the extent that the hon. Member for Ealing, North carried it, when he suggested that we should have buses calling every five minutes, with smaller buses and more of them. He will realise that there is an economic level at which they can be provided, and providing that we are sensible in that connection we can always subscribe to it.
The fourth point in the declaration of intent was an equitable means of paying for it all. What is an equitable means of paying for it? The Minister of Transport is inviting us to look through a glass darkly. He has not told us what he has in his mind. This is not good enough. Whenever we get to the crux of the matter, whether it be the finances of London Transport, or the means of paying for the deficit, the right hon. Gentleman has no means. There is nothing there. We expect to have more information about what this means.
There are, of course, the owners of motor cars. There are the passengers who travel on London's transport. There are the ratepayers, and there are the taxpayers. All these groups of people can be asked to pay for the deficit in greater or lesser degree. My right hon. Friend suggested that the taxpayers should take a small burden, and the ratepayers the major burden. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall thought that it should be the other way round. There have been many suggestions as to whether there should be fare increases or not. We want to know what is in the Minister's mind about this, and I am disappointed that he has not gone further in this respect.
When we come to the measures we can get a little nearer to what the Minister is thinking of doing. They are all rather depressing. The first measure is that we should discourage the private car. There are to be heavy restrictions on parking. This is not only to keep the roads open but to make sure that there is no great volume of traffic in Central London at all. I do not think that this will be at all popular in the country, and I am not sure that this is the right solution.
When dealing with the fuel industries we have always laid it down—and I think this is accepted by both sides of the House—that the consumer should have the choice of the fuel which he finds most suitable to his needs, provided that the cost of the fuel represents the cost of production, and I think that the same principle should apply to travellers in London. They should be offered whatever means of transport suits them best, provided that the cost is the same as it costs to provide it. I do not think that we want any compulsion or force in this matter.
I think that the Minister should tell us a little more about his intentions with regard to parking because I think that they will be thought to be a little alarming by many who at the present time are hard put to find somewhere to leave their cars.
The Minister's second measure was to have extra charges for those who cause the congestion to help pay for London Transport's deficit. This is very sinister. What does it mean? Does it mean that if a person brings his car into London he will be surcharged and have to pay for an extra licence to drive it into the City? Does it mean that every time he crosses the boundary into London he will have to pay a tax towards this deficit? These are very strange suggestions, and the Minister has not told us what they mean. I hope that he will take an early opportunity to put our minds at rest.
There is one point on which I should like to dwell for a moment, and that is the question of staff relations and an increase in productivity. The Minister put this as one of the things that he wants to get to increase the efficiency of the undertaking. At present it is a sorry tale, as many hon. Members have described, and I agree particularly with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford said about this. We on the Committee felt that the situation had not been at all well handled in the past.
My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) talked about grasping the nettle, referring, I think, to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Technology as the nettle. In his evidence to the Committee Sir Alec Valentine described the nettle as active and destructive elements. I do not know whether we are talking about the same person, but I do not believe that this is the cause of the trouble.
The relationship between workpeople and management must be the responsibility of the management. My right hon. Friend put this very forcefully in his speech, and I am certain that this is a classic example of the management having failed to take the initiative to cure the troubles in the industry. It is a prime example of an opportunity for a Fawley-type solution. All the ingredients are there—shortage of labour, serious restrictive practices, low wages, and bad labour relations.
This is an opportunity for a new deal. It was quite wrong to try to blame this situation on anything but the failure of management. Restrictive practices in this industry are very serious. It took seven years to agree to the introduction of one-man buses. There is serious resistance to "standee" buses, and to the larger type of buses. There is resistance to works study in the garages and in the railway workshops. I am sure that there is a host of other restrictions which have put up costs in London Transport, and which are still putting them up very much.
The unions are not responsible. There are many precedents for situations of this sort being solved by the drive and punch and freshness of approach of good management. My right hon. Friend said that management must find a way round the problem. Nobody else can. Therefore, I appeal again to the management of London Transport to take hold of this nettle and pull it out of the ground, and to cure the cancer that is putting up the cost of transport and causing a deterioration in the service to the customers.
There are lots of restrictive practices left. It is not too late to start getting rid of them, and I adjure London Transport again to take this matter very seriously. It is depressing to read, in its answer to our report, that it is simply the disruptive elements in the union that are causing the trouble. I hope that it will not pursue that line of thought.
The main point about the Minister's measures concerns the fares increases. He said that if productivity had risen there would have been no need for these increases at this time. I do not know to what extent it is true that fares increases will continue to drive away more people, or whether those customers would leave the buses anyway as they obtain cars for themselves or find alternative means of going to work. In any case, it was totally wrong for the Minister to interfere when London Transport wished to raise its fares this summer.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Fylde (Col. Lancaster) suggested that we should not refer further to the dispute which took place in the Committee, and I am happy to accord with that suggestion, but I thought at the time that the Minister's action was wrong from the point of view of London Transport when for two months he unofficially prevented the fares increase and for six months afterwards officially held them down. He has now come to the conclusion that the increases are to go forward. If so, despite all the fuss and palaver, for short-term political reasons the Minister has cost the country £3·8 million, which was the cost of holding up the fares increase for eight months. He has grossly upset the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, and he has had to eat his words this afternoon—and at the end of the day it is clear that the fares will go up. What a way to run a railway!
If I may speak again, by leave of the House, we have had an extremely useful debate. I will end the debate with the words with which I commenced it. The House has definitely emphasised that there is a real problem in London Transport. It demands some new thinking and some courageous decisions. These will of necessity inconvenience some people, but they are absolutely essential. We shall read and study with great interest my right hon. Friend's statement, and we hope that out of it we shall get something that will be of real, tangible assistance towards the unravelling of the problem of London Transport.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.