Orders of the Day — Transport Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:20 am on 22nd February 1967.

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Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare 11:20 am, 22nd February 1967

The Minister does not seem to like this particularly, but she must be reminded of the attitude which she is showing to the country and which the country notes. She should be reminded that it is her function to do something to create better conditions for the motorist and for the user of public transport and not simply to create, on every possible occasion, a new authority.

For every problem, there is to be a new authority— the conurbation authority, the National Freight Organisation, the port rationalisation scheme—and the road hauliers are to be gradually nationalised and eroded away. This is not planning transport but planning Socialism. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire may laugh, but he and I know of the great tribute to the Minister of Transport paid by her hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) who understands these things and appreciated the fact that he had at least one active Socialist Member in the Cabinet. We know this. This is the practice of Socialism through the whole economy —not to better the citizen's life but to get control of every aspect of our affairs. It is usual, at this stage of a debate, for the Government, bereft of any ideas themselves, to say to us, "What would you do?" and occasionally they take our advice. We advised them last May to take the steam out of the economy. Belatedly, they took our advice, and on 20th July the Prime Minister said that there was a financial crisis and that he would have to take steps. The Minister is aware that as a result she had to postpone her own White Paper on transport policy for a week.

If we are asked for advice on this occasion, the advice which we would give is that there are certain characteristics of each type of transport and that they can be dovetailed together and must be used to the greatest advantage. Although four railway union officials have done their job thoroughly and conscientiously here today, I regret that nobody except the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker)—part of whose speech I missed—spoke up for the motorist, asking tor work on the M4 to be accelerated. Apart from his speech—and I have sat through practically the whole debate—I do not remember much pressure from Government supporters for greater efforts to improve the roads either in the cities or between them.

The country notes that the Labour Party is still opposed to the motorist and those who use the roads. [Laughter.] Well, we judge by their words and their actions. They must be reminded, therefore, that, although the railways have great advantages in high speed, high density and high safety of their traffic, the roads have the advantage of flexibility, which is so useful in achieving the necessary manoeuvrability.

One knows that the right hon. Lady has presided over reductions in the road programme. She frequently says that the road programme which she is operating is the biggest that it has ever been. Of course it is—[Interruption.] I accept the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's tribute, it is the programme which we left them, the planning which we put through. I accept the hon. Gentleman's tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey, who did so much to increase the road programme 26-fold in those 13 allegedly wasted years.