Bus Operators, Road Hauliers and Ports and Docks Industries (Nationalisation)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 1967.

Alert me about debates like this

3.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I beg to move, That this House is opposed to further nationalisation of bus operators, road hauliers and the ports and docks industries, and therefore deplores the Government policies which threaten these industries. Today's debate is prompted by announcements from the Ministry of Transport concerning its intention to introduce a major transport Bill next Session. In bringing forward this matter, it is our objective to see that the country can debate the lines of policy which the right hon. Lady wishes to pursue. In a recent television broadcast, she rightly proclaimed: I have been a Left-wing Socialist all my life. I would certainly pay her the tribute of saying that she is adhering to her traditional policies as a Minister.

One might reflect on the former leaders of the Left-wing group of the Labour Party who now occupy Cabinet posts—the Minister of Housing, who has seemingly given up party politics altogether, the Leader of the House, who is incapable of doing so, although he should, and the Prime Minister, whom no hon. Gentleman below the Gangway would accuse of adhering too dogmatically to his former Left-wing Socialist policies. But no one can object that the Minister of Transport is changing her former Left-wing policies. As the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) wrote recently in Tribune: At least in the Ministry of Transport there is a Socialist at work in Whitehall.

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Mr. Walker:

I well understand the confirmation of this by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but the public's view is not that the right hon. Lady is pursuing particularly Left-wing policies, because all the publicity on transport since she has been Minister has concerned freightliner trains, road building and constant publicity as she opens various roads which my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) started. All the documents and White Papers like that on road safety give the impression of a Minister concerned with practical details of transport policy and not pursuing particularly Left-wing policies.

I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her skill in giving this impression, because the performance on road and rail shows that while she has been Minister the Government have, for the first time in post-war Britain, had to cut the road building programme which they inherited from the Conservatives and which was described by the former Shadow Minister of Transport, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), as … too late, too little and totally inadequate. That programme has since suffered from £55 million-worth of deferments and £14 million-worth of cuts. On the railways, there has been a steadily increasing deficit.

The way in which these cuts have been concealed by the announcement of many hundreds of millions of £s of roads going into the preparation pool, and such techniques as that, has been a very skilful political operation. But on this side of the House we should much prefer that the right hon. Lady should concentrate on the practical problems of transport and of seeing that the preparation pool roads become real roads in the future and that the deficit of British Railways is reduced by good management and by stopping the over-manning which is taking place at present. We feel that instead of next year's nationalisation measure she should introduce a major road safety Bill. In fact, we are told that next year we are to have this mammoth Transport Bill, described in the New Statesman recently by Mr. Paul Johnson in this way: Mrs. Castle is said to have an immense transport Bill based on true Socialist principles". It is the extent of those true Socialist principles that we wish to expose to the general public this afternoon.

These principles fall into three major categories, and in total they present a mammoth programme of nationalisation, far greater than the nationalisation of the steel industry. The total compensation which will be involved in the public ownership of the bus companies, in the acquisition of road haulage fleets by the national freight authority and in the complete nationalisation of the ports and docks will certainly dwarf the amounts involved in the nationalisation of steel.

The three main lines of the right hon. Lady's nationalisation proposals are, first, the passenger transport authorities which will take over the bus companies; secondly, the national freight authority, which will take over road haulage companies; and thirdly, the complete nationalisation of the ports and docks.

I want to deal, first, with the Minister's startling proposals concerning the passenger transport authorities. The first indication of these were published in a White Paper last year. It is 12 months since the initial proposals were made. There was no indication in that White Paper that these passenger transport authorities would result in a massive acquisition of bus companies and other services. Indeed, on 1st December last year, the Minister published a memorandum which she had sent to local authorities as a basis of discussion, and we were all able to see those proposals. Once again, they contained no definite proposals to acquire the operating bus companies.

In January, the right hon. Lady made a tour of the conurbations and spoke to the operators and the local authorities involved. I would point out to the right hon. Lady that the local authorities with whom she spoke on that occasion have somewhat changed their political complexion since then. In May, there were massive changes in the political complexion of these authorities. For example, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle all now have Conservative majorities, and Birmingham has substantially increased the Conservative majority on the local authority. To get up to date with the current view of those conurbations, expressed by their democratically elected representatives, perhaps another tour is called for.

But these proposals have been replaced by a document sent to local authorities— the first document to be marked "Confidential". Fortunately, it is no longer confidential, because it has been published in the magazine Motor Transport almost in its entirety, and the Birmingham Post, too, has published great sections of the document. Having seen the document, and noting the Minister's current proposals, we immediately required this debate, because the proposals which she is currently making cannot be said to be a basis of discussion, because these proposals are after 12 months of work by the right hon. Lady, within 14 weeks of the Bill being published, and after she has spoken to conurbations and to operating companies. We can therefore take it that these proposals are very near to the final proposals that the Minister will make. They add up to a massive nationalisation programme.

We can understand the reluctance to make this document known to the public, because the ratepayers and the passengers travelling on bus services in these conurbations will be very alarmed when they know of the Minister's proposals. It certainly appeared that the Minister's intention was to publish a White Paper a week or so before the Second Reading of the Bill and to leave very little time for the public to recognise what was taking place. I therefore want to deal in some depth with the proposals now made to the local authorities by the Minister.

First, I will consider the reasons for creating the passenger transport authorities. Three main reasons are given in the memorandum. The first is the advantage of size and the advantage of reducing fares by a larger scale of operation. I would point out that there is no evidence to support that. Indeed, there is very strong evidence against it—and not evidence simply from one of the private operating companies, but evidence, for example, from the head of economic research of the Transport Holding Company, who in a recent Paper stated: There is no evidence that the customer is the more satisfied with the bus services provided, the larger the size of the undertaking. If efficiency is to be measured by cost, there is equally no evidence that larger size reduces costs". This is the evidence of the head of economic research of the nationalised bus operating companies.

The second advantage claimed was that of co-ordination. This is a very poor reason for going in for the nationalisation programme which the right hon. Lady later outlines. The Minister set up nine regional co-ordinating committees on passenger transport. We could easily have awaited the reports of those Committees. I have a feeling that the Minister knows that the reports of those committees would expose her argument, for already there has been an inquiry between British Railways, the London Transport Board and three of the larger operating companies which looked into these problems of the co-ordination of time-tables and schedules, and it showed that there was not a great deal of need for improvement—and, after that report, all the necessary improvements were made.

The third reason given was the vague reason of long-term planning. The Government and, least of all, the Ministry of Transport have little to boast about in their achievements in long-term planning. It is a little over 15 months ago that the National Plan was published, but almost every line of the section on transport in that National Plan has already proved .12, be absolutely false and wrong. That gives little confidence in the advantages of long-term planning.

Let me come to the proposals. First of all, the passenger transport authorities are to be set up. They are to be set up by a designation Order made by the Minister under the powers given to her by next year's Transport Bill. The area is to be designated by the Minister—and it is to be designated by her with no right at all of the local authorities to protest against the area which she designates or the powers which the Minister gives in the designation Order. Indeed, the memorandum sent by the Minister to the local authorities categorically stated that there would be no procedure for formal objection or public inquiry.

We know full well the reason why the Minister refuses to give the local authorities concerned any right of formal objection or any right of a public inquiry. It is that when an attempt was made by the previous Labour Government in 1947 to nationalise the bus industry, the majority of local authorities owning bus services, including many Socialist-controlled local authorities, took advan- tage of the procedure given to them to object to the Minister's plans and to have a public inquiry. This Minister's proposals, as at present framed, will give no scope at all for the democratically elected leaders in the localities to have a procedure for objection or for public inquiry.

The next stage, after the designation Order is made, is that all municipal assets will be passed over to the passenger transport authority. This is much against the wishes of the local authorities. Birmingham, for example, with £10 million worth of assets built up over the years in its municipal bus company, will have to hand those over, without compensation, to the passenger transport authority. If the Minister consults the local authorities on this question, she will find them almost unanimous in their wish not to hand over the municipally-owned bus companies. Only yesterday, the five West Midlands county boroughs in their joint committee, Dudley—appropriately enough—Warley, Wolverhampton, Walsall and West Bromwich, issued a statement, after a meeting held in Walsall, saying that they had no intention of seeing their bus services handed over to the type of P.T.A. described by the Minister.

The third stage is that the P.T.A. will lay down which privately-owned bus companies it wishes to purchase. These will then be purchased, if necessary under compulsory purchase order issued by the Minister. Not only will the P.T.A. be allowed to nationalise the whole of the bus companies, but it will be allowed to take from the free enterprise operators specific routes. It can take the best routes and leave the free enterprise companies with the worst paying routes. Some form of compensation will be paid, but one queries the basis of it.

There is thus to be immense power in the passenger transport authorities to acquire both municipally-owned assets and private assets. The House may well wonder what is to be the composition of the P.T.A.s. The Minister's proposals here are alarming. Two-thirds of the representatives on a P.T.A. will come from the counties and county boroughs in the area designated, but, significantly, it is added that the Minister will be able to refuse the nomination of an unsuitable person and request the council to nominate an alternative and to act in default if the council does not do so.

Thus, it will be two-thirds in the hands of the local authorities, but the Minister will have power to veto any nomination. The other third are to be nominated direct by the Minister. This means that, in a conurbation area designated by the Minister where the local authorities are 70 per cent. Conservative-controlled and 30 per cent. Labour-controlled, the majority on the P.T.A. can be chosen by either Socialist councils or a Socialist Minister. This is what the Minister calls bringing democracy into public transport. Further, the Minister will appoint the chairman of the P.T.A., and she will have to be consulted on the appointment of the chief executive of the P.T.A.

The enormous powers to be given to the P.T.A.s are, perhaps, the most startling feature of all in the document. It is proposed that the Bill should confer wide powers on passenger transport authorities, powers to carry on all forms of passenger transport except air transport—there is a concession—and, in particular, P.T.A.s will be able to run: (1) stage and express bus services; (2) tours and excursions; (3) contract bus services wholly or partly within the P.T.A. area; (4) hovercraft and ferries; (5) any new forms of transport, such as monorail; (6) any stretches of railway that British Rail does not wish to run; (7) taxis; (8) hire cars.

In addition to all that which can be run by the passenger transport authorities, the memorandum goes on to tell us that the P.T.A. will be empowered to undertake ancillary activities such as vehicle repair, the provision of refreshments, and the operation of bookstalls. In total, this is a mammoth extension of public ownership by what will be largely a Ministerially-controlled body.

The Minister has said that it is not her intention to set up regional nationalised bus companies. She wanted, she said, to have a strong local influence. She says that this is not nationalisation. But let us look at the similarities between her proposals and nationalisation. As with nationalisation, the chairman will be appointed by the Minister. As with nationalisation, the members of the authority will have to be approved by the Minister, and a third directly appointed by her. As with nationalisation, she will be consulted on the chief appointments. She will have complete power to designate the areas concerned, without any form of public inquiry.

The only difference between the Minister's proposal and outright nationalisation is that, whereas the losses are met by the Government under nationalisation, under these proposals the losses are to be met by the ratepayers of the conurbations concerned. Undoubtedly, higher fares and higher rates will result from the Minister's proposals.

The next part of the memorandum tells us of the powers which the passenger transport authority will have regarding the railways. This will be of interest to members of the National Union of Railwaymen, particularly to those hon. Members who recently took part in our debate on the railway deficit when, it will be remembered, I queried the 11,000 miles proposed.

The Minister says that a P.T.A. will be able to contract with British Rail for all the services it wishes to have in the locality, and the contract will be negotiated on the basis of paying British Rail a full economic price for the services provided. One can envisage the difficulties of such negotiation, with no alternative rail company to offer a quotation. How will one check on the apportionment of head office overheads and regional overheads which will be put to the local services? How much of the railway deficit will be shifted on to the ratepayers by this proposal?

Apart from that, we are told that the P.T.A. will be under no obligation to maintain any particular suburban rail service. If it does not consider it desirable to maintain the service, the P.T.A. would so indicate to British Rail, which would then propose closure. This is the proposal which comes from a Minister who published a map showing 11,000 miles of railway which would not he touched. In those 11,000 miles are included some of the railways which, the Minister now says, the P.T.A.s will have power to close should they think it desirable.

The ratepayers will have put on them eventually the existing railway deficit, which the Minister estimates at something over £10 million. She says in the memorandum that it will be right ultimately for the P.T.A. to assume full financial responsibility for its contract with British Rail, and she advocates an interim period when some Government grants would be made to stop the immediate agitation which would otherwise come from all the ratepayers involved.

The one bait in the memorandum to the people concerned is the proposal for infrastructure grants. The Minister says, "If you give up all your bus services, if you agree to this great bureaucratic plan, if you agree to my nominating a third of the membership of the P.T.A., to my nominating its chairman, and to my being consulted about the chief appointments, the advantage will be some infrastructure grants for you for major improvements in public transport".

How much? How much can we expect at present? This is a proposal by a Minister who has already cut the road building programme by £14 million, who cut the railway investment programme by £10 million last year, and who cut the clocks programme by £10 million last year. Where is the money to come from for these infrastructure grants?—from tolls on motorways, or by doing away with the Channel Tunnel project? Already, there are 12 hon. Members opposite calling for emergency meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party to discuss all the cuts which are to take place in public expenditure. Yet the bait that the Minister puts to the local authorities is, "Hold on, because we may well be giving you some infrastructure grants". In the present economic climate—the economic stagnation of this country under this Government—local authorities have very little chance of any substantial infrastructure grants.

If the Minister really wanted to help public transport and to decrease its costs, there are many things she could do other than this nationalisation proposal. She could bring investment allowances back for buses and coaches. She could do something to ease or to remove the S.E.T. burden on bus companies. She could do something about the fuel tax in relation to buses. She could make some grants to provide better parking facilities at stations. This sort of nationalisation proposal is not needed.

These proposals will result in an enormous burden on ratepayers, will take out of local authority hands areas of control which they at present enjoy, and will result in enormous compensation having to be paid by the taxpayer to these bus companies, with no improvement in service. On the contrary, a very considerable deterioration in service will take place.

I am anxious that everybody in the conurbations concerned should recognise the dangers involved. If the Minister's proposals in the Bill are anything like the proposals in this memorandum, I hope that time will be given for the conurbations to realise what is involved. I should be delighted to debate in any of the conurbations involved the proposals the Minister makes as far as they affect ratepayers and taxpayers.

That is the first proposal. As if that is not enough, there is the proposal for the National Freight Organisation and its threat to the road haulage industry. Who wants the National Freight Organisation? British Railways? Certainly not. Everybody who has any contact with British Railways will know that all of its management are strongly opposed to the concept of the National Freight Organisation. The Transport Holding Company? Of course it does not. The Transport Holding Company, which has been one of the rare commercially-run nationalised concerns, is violently opposed to its company being broken up in this way. The private haulier? Obviously he does not, because he realises that he will be met with unfair competition. The public? Certainly not. There is no clamour from the public for the National Freight Organisation. The unions? Certainly not.

Photo of Mr Charles Mapp Mr Charles Mapp , Oldham East

The hon. Gentleman has just implied that the private haulier will face unfair competition from the National Freight Organisation. Will he prove his point?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

If the hon. Gentleman will wait for a few seconds, he will find I am coming to the point where I illustrate the fear I have on this topic.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I will explain why I think that my fear is well founded. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be prepared to wait a few seconds. Last Friday's Railway Review, the journal of the National Union of Railwaymen, reporting on its conference at Aberdeen, refers to some of the comments made at the conference about the N.F.O. I defy anybody here to find one comment of a friendly nature which was made at that conference about the N.F.O. Every speech about the N.F.O., as reported in the Railway Review, expressed hostility to, or fear of, this conception.

What does the N.F.O. do? It combines together the lorries of British Road Services with the lorries of British Rail and the freightliner trains. This is the conception. The question might be asked, "What is the objection to this?" There is no particular objection in the sense that, if it is desired to secure a better coordination between British Road Services and British Railways, by all means this should go ahead.

But why confine this operation merely to the 5 per cent. of lorries in this country owned by the Transport Holding Company? If the Minister really wants to get a sensible co-ordination between the road haulage industry and British Railways, and to use its excellent freightliner train facilities, why does not she pursue a policy of trying to encourage the maximum cooperation between the private haulier and British Railways, on the same basis as the co-ordination between British Road Services and British Railways? Why have merely this confined operation?

What would the Minister say if the Transport Development Group, a major free enterprise body, were to ask to set up an identical arrangement, using its lorries in conjunction with freight liner trains, on exactly the same arrangement with British Railways as is to be given to the N.F.O.? What would her reaction be if a dozen or so free enterprise firms in Glasgow, Birmingham or Liverpool got together and said, "We would like a contract with British Railways for freightliner trains", on the same basis as the N.F.O. will have it?

Photo of Mr Charles Mapp Mr Charles Mapp , Oldham East

The hon. Gentleman is talking about fears. He has not produced any evidence. Indeed, the evidence to the contrary is here with us. The Ford Motor Company and other companies are already doing precisely that on terms of equity.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I agree with that. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for supporting my case. For example, the Minister in her speech to the Road Haulage Association said this: Many of you are going to be in competition with the National Freight Organisation. I give you fair warning the N.F.O. will not be easy to beat. It will provide a door-to-door service second to none. It will be combining the liner train operations of British Rail—for speed and reliability—with road transport for the distributive haul. The Minister knows full well that there is no need to form a national freight authority to do this. If the combined rate of going from Glasgow to London by a combination of British road Services and British Railways is exactly the same as the combined rate of an efficient free enterprise haulier and British Railways, this will illustrate fair competition. If it is to be on that basis, what is the point of the N.F.O.? If it is not on this basis—only time will tell—what I suspect is that there will be one company and that, if somebody outside Glasgow asks for a quotation from the N.F.O. to go by freight liner train to London, that quotation will turn out to be very different from what would happen if a private haulier said to British Railways, "I want to send my goods for some part of the journey by freight liner train and I will add my competitive costs of the road journey".

If they are different, if there is an under-cutting process, as all of the Minister's remarks tend to suggest, there will be a situation in which the private road haulier will be unfairly under-cut by the N.F.O. The N.F.O. will be given powers by the Minister, who has clearly stated that she will encourage the organisation to use these powers to the full, to acquire private haulage fleets. First we shall see under-cutting of private haulage fleets. When they are under-cut and making losses, there will be acquisition on the basis of loss-making companies. This is the most dishonourable form of nationalisation. Because of this, if the legislation is on that basis, we shall strongly oppose it.

The third nationalisation proposal of the Minister is the nationalisation of the ports and docks. This is a straightforward nationalisation proposal. Let us examine it and see what it achieves. Of our 15 major ports and docks, six are already controlled by public boards. There are boards like the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and the P.L.A., which are already public, non-profit-making boards. Seven are already nationalised, and are under the aegis of the British Transport Docks Board. One is Bristol, a local authority-owned port. One is Manchester.

What is the point of nationalising a port like Bristol and taking it out of municipal control? Indeed, it was surprising that the Minister herself, speaking at Avonmouth—I say "surprising", because nobody has done more to slow progress at the Port of Bristol than the present Minister—proclaimed her advocacy of nationalisation and said that the reason for nationalisation was that we were following behind the Continent and that ports like Rotterdam were going ahead.

Has not anybody told the Minister that Rotterdam is a municipally-owned port and that the great rival she has often mentioned is not a nationalised port at all but is owned by the municipality? Therefore, if she is impressed by Rotterdam, that is all the more reason for allowing Bristol to remain in local authority control.

Why nationalise the P.L.A. or the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board? Are they doing anything particularly irresponsible at present? Why nationalise the Port of Manchester, whose chief shareholder is the city of Manchester? Whether Manchester has been under Labour or under Conservative control, that Board, which has a majority of local representatives on it, has worked well and is an object of great pride to the city, no matter what political complexion the Council may have at any particular time.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

The hon. Gentleman refers to Manchester as a port, citing it is an example. As Manchester has complete, unified control over the stevedores, the forwarding agencies and the like, is he advocating that we should apply this to all ports?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I think that there are certain operational advantages at Manchester, but this is no reason for nation- alising Manchester. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be saying that because Manchester has a pattern of organisation which he admires the Government should nationalise it.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that if all the ports had this pattern of organisation it would be a good thing? But it does not exist in other ports.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

It does not exist in some of the nationalised ports. This does not enter into the nationalisation argument. The hon. Gentleman is saying that if a free enterprise port is operating on a line that he admires and the nationalised ones are not, the free enterprise ones should be nationalised. Why nationalise a port like Felixstowe, which has been a great innovator in the port industry, initiating methods which have livened up some of the other ports? Why nationalise a port like Shoreham, which has reduced its fees and charges through its efficiency? Why nationalise all the small ports which stimulate competition in the short sea trades and maintains flexibility and elasticity of connections with Continental Europe?

Let us look at the disadvantages of nationalisation. Enormous compensation would be involved—between £900 million and £1,200 million—in the assets of the major port and dock companies according to the evidence given by the National Ports Council. Probably there would be disadvantages in terms of labour relations. There would be great danger that what would otherwise be disputes confined to certain ports and companies would be spread out on a national basis. It would mean the destruction of the small innovators in the industry. It would create another London-dominated, London-controlled bureaucracy.

In a recent Press handout on the subject issued by the Ministry of Transport, the Minister tried to suggest that the local regions would have considerable powers. There was a stunning paragraph which said that, while the National Port Authority would control policy on finance, planning, investment, revenue, targets, pricing, research, training and key appointments, the regional port authorities would have a wide measure of autonomy. So provided that they had nothing to do with finance, planning, revenue targets, pricing, research, training and key appointments, they would have complete freedom to operate as they wanted. This is the sort of enormous bureaucracy which would be created.

The problem of port and docks will not come up in the next Parliamentary Session. It will not come up for further consideration in the one after that. But if we return to power at a time when nationalisation has not been completed we shall have nothing to do with it, and if we come to power when it has just been completed we shall do all we can to reintroduce a system whereby there is a much greater interest and stake for those involved in its operation than under any nationalised concept.

These proposals add up to the most enormous attempt by, as the Minister describes herself, a Left-wing Socialist Minister to bring wholesale public ownership into our transport system. If ever there was an area of our economy in which to encourage enterprise and the enterprising it is transport, and if ever there was an area of our economy in which we wanted to see the best scope for competition, it is the transport industry.

The terrifying thing about the whole programme is that, instead of the Minister concentrating on the practical task facing the country in terms of transport, we shall be involved in the next two years in this gigantic Socialist programme towards transport, and I believe that there will be no improvement at all in the efficiency of the transport industry.

The Government have been disappointed with regard to the fulfilment of the hopes that they put before the public in the 1964 General Election. They must also be disappointed about the stagnation in our economy. They must realise that they will never get away from that stagnation so long as they act in a constantly hostile fashion towards the whole free enterprise sector. We have a mixed economy. At the moment the private enterprise industrialist has to depend on a nationalised industry for his coal supplies, gas supplies, electricity, rail transport and, more recently, his steel. He will in future have to depend more and more upon nationalised road haulage, nationalised ports and docks and the nationalised movement of passengers by bus. There comes a stage in this mixed economy where so much of his basic costings are dependent on the costings laid down by the State and nationalised industries that he does not have the freedom to operate competitively. If the Government want to get away from their stagnation, the way to do it is to encourage the free enterprise sector, not to attack it in the hostile way that the Minister is going to attack it in all spheres of transport over the next two years. It is for this reason that we shall divide the House tonight.

4.26 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) for his opening remarks with their complimentary reference to my consistency. I return the compliment. He, too, is consistent. He is consistent in inaccuracy. It does not matter how often one refutes and pins down some of his dashing, wild statements from the Dispatch Box and elsewhere. Undeterred he pops up again a few weeks later to repeat them word for word.

We have had an example trotted out again this afternoon. We have the supposed example of what has happened with regard to roads expenditure. The hon. Gentleman says that a Left-wing Socialist Minister, distracted by her nationalisation plans, has allowed to take place a cut in the road programme of the Conservative Government. The trouble was that the Conservative Government never had a roads programme at all until 1960. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, our road programme has increased steadily and persistently year by year. This year it will be 30 per cent. higher than it was last year. We have succeeded with our practical policies in doubling in the last five years this country's long overdue expenditure on road development. Under a Labour Government we are now enjoying the largest road-building programme in our history. This is a fact, and nothing that the hon. Gentleman repeats can get away from it.

The accusation that the hon. Gentleman has made against me is that, instead of concerning myself with practical details of transport policy, I am busy with sinister Socialist plots. But what the hon. Gentleman does not realise is that all the objective facts now clearly show that in transport the only practical policies are Socialist ones. By the time I have finished my remarks I shall have established that irrefutably. Nothing shows more clearly than the Motion and the speech that we have just heard that the Opposition are bogged down in out-of-date transport concepts and stale ideologies. As for the practical side, the only policy that we have had from the hon. Gentleman today has been one of no change.

The fact is—and surely every hon. Member should be aware of it—that in the past five or six years a transport revolution has been creeping up on all of us. Yet all the Conservative Party can do is to hug its antediluvian prejudices as though the traffic explosion had not forced us all to rethink fundamentally the transport needs of our towns; or as though the container revolution was not challenging us all to see the flow of freight as one worldwide integrated movement of ship, road and rail for which we must plan and reorganise nationally with a desperate sense of urgency.

One of the ironies of the Motion is that it deplores the Government's nationalisation proposals, which, the hon. Gentleman says, "threaten" road haulage, bus operators and the ports and docks industries. But one of the landmarks in transport thinking today—I am sorry that there was no indication that the hon. Gentleman had taken time even to glance at it—is contained in the second McKinsey Report, "Containerisation: the key to low-cost transport". The hon. Gentleman made a great deal of the importance of low cost transport to our economy and I agree with him. That is why I believe that the Report is essential reading for anyone trying to get a solution to our transport problems.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that this outstanding Report was commissioned by a nationalised industry, the British Transport Docks Board. When he talks of nationalisation threatening our docks and ports, I remind him also that, commercially and financially, the Board, which controls 29 ports, has proved itself to be one of the most successful bodies in the whole of industry.

What is more, it has established itself in the forefront of technological progress. Since its inception in 1963, it has always made a profit and the net surplus is around £1 million to £1½ million each year after realistic depreciation and interest have been taken into account. The Board maintained this even in 1966, when there were exceptional trading difficulties and many commercial concerns showed lower profits.

The Board has proved itself managerially streamlined and in policy infinitely flexible. Faced with the loss of some traditional traffics, such as coal exports from South Wales, it has not sat back but has gone out to attract new traffic to take its place. During the four years of its existence, it has spent over £24½ million on capital investment, £20 million of this supplied from its own resources. That is an outstanding achievement by any reckoning.

What is more, it is the Board which has pioneered the adaptation of our ports to containerisation. Grangemouth, one of its ports, was the first British port to have a deep-sea container service to the United States, and special facilities for deep-sea container services are being constructed at Southampton and a new berth at Newport may be equipped for containers as well. What is more, the Board has pioneered modern techniques in management, training, research and operation and its training college at King's Lynn has set an example in the application of modern training techniques to the whole ports industry. I do not call this "threatening" the industry but saving it.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

Will not the right hon. Lady now concede that the Port of Bristol would be doing as well if she would only allow it?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

I am sorry. I am not here to knock Bristol or any other port. But the simple fact is that the Board has given us a prototype of the sort of organisation and dynamism which nationalisation will enable us to introduce throughout all our ports. This is why I have asked Sir Arthur Kirby, the Chairman of the Board, to chair the National Ports Council in preparation for this transition to public ownership.

I seriously recommend the House to read the McKinsey Report, because it has significant lessons for us throughout the whole of transport. It may be that the pace and scale of containerisation will not prove to be as great as the Report suggests. Nevertheless, taking all that into account, there are urgent implications for our whole transport policy. I do not suppose that anyone will question the fact that containerisation can bring dramatic economies in our transportation costs. McKinsey suggests that they may be greater than 50 per cent. in many cases.

But these economies are not limited to our ships and ports. We all know that in the ports one container berth equals the capacity of 20 break-bulk berths. But these economies, properly mobilised and properly backed by a good administrative structure to make them possible, can flow throughout the whole inland transport system.

Containerisation has also radically altered the relative economics of road and rail. One theme is hammered home in the Report over and over again. It is that the development in transport of a standard unit—the container—calls for an integrated system of cargo movement covering the entire transportation process between point of origin and final destination. The Report sums up its conclusions as follows: Thus, road and rail transport, ports, ships etc. may be viewed as the component links that collectively represent a total transportation system. It is urgent, if we want to survive in this desperately competitive world which the container is now threatening, to start and think in terms of a total transportation system.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

Does the right hon. Lady think, therefore, that she will nationalise all our sea-going ships as well?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Perhaps the hon. Gentle man will allow me to carry through a serious argument. I am not running away. I am here to argue the Motion and gladly do so. But I want to argue it not against the background of prejudice and blind ideology of the party opposite but in the context of modern facts. The McKinsey Report points out that there are serious obstacles to the achievement of this new concept which is vital for our survival. It sums up: However, the fragmented nature of the industry"— it is referring to transportation— and the desire to protect individual segments of it, may impede the evolution to the low-cost transportation system that can be achieved. Thus, Britain should co-ordinate the activities of its various nationalised industries and regulatory agencies and establish a national policy for bringing the desired system into being. I cannot imagine a clearer justification for the National Freight Organisation which I propose, the whole purpose of which is to re-knit some of the segments of nationalised transport which the Tories fragmented with such disastrous consequences. By welding the freightliner system to our nationalised road haulage network, we shall get a double advantage because the National Freight Organisation will then be able to offer both road transport, with its flexibility to operate on any route, plus the low-cost of the freightliner on standardised routes, the superiority offered by rail movement in moving freight having been demonstrated mathematically in this Report.

On my fairly recent visit to the United States, I talked to some of the rail and road companies and discovered that they envied us the chance to integrate our road and rail services. They are prevented by internal anti-trust legislation from doing so. That is why I intend to seize the implications of the container revolution and to carry it through in the new structure of our transport system—

Photo of Mr Daniel Awdry Mr Daniel Awdry , Chippenham

On her visit, did the right hon. Lady find that the Americans agreed that all practical policies must be Socialist ones?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Yes, as a matter of fact. I said to some of the heads of the railway companies, "This is music to my ears. You are talking pure Socialism". I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite will retort, as did the hon. Member for Worcester, "We favour the freightliners and agree that they should be developed", but their approach is entirely different. They see them as merely a narrow, nationalised link in a chain of transport dominated by private enterprise. When the hon. Gentleman tries to mobilise the backing and sympathy of the railwaymen and waves at me copies of the Railway Review, I would remind him that it is his and his party's concept of the freightliner that railwaymen have been fighting—the concept of the iron bridge which the private haulier can use when it suits his economy.

However, I have a very different concept—[Laughter.] Yes, and I am proud to declare it openly—it is that freightliners are a triumph of nationalised industry. If private enterprise owned such an asset, it would use it is as a springboard for vertical integration. Dr. Beeching indicated the commercial logic of that. Are we to put it into a straitjacket of Conservative policy? I believe that this kernel of our rapidly modernising nationalised transport system should expand and develop its own road services and establish close, integrated links with our nationalised ports and should get into the inland clearance depots and shipping by various means, including consortia.

This is the kernel of my policy and this is what I intend our nationalised transport services to do, thus ending what McKinsey calls the "functional division" which has limited the extent to which the concept of total transportation can be developed.

I have said before and say again—I do not intend to renationalise the road haulage industry. I have made this clear from the beginning and. despite what the hon. Member for Worcester said, I am not departing from it. However, I have been struck by the slowness of the private hauliers in taking advantage of the freightliner system, after we spent two years arguing in the House and with the N.U.R. about the important principle behind open terminals. Now, despite its economics, private hauliers are hanging back.

I do not intend to renationalise road haulage, but I do intend to exploit to the full the potentialities of our nationalised services We must not forget that, with its freightliner services, British Rail has led the way in containerisation, not only in this country but in Europe, and I do not intend that the advantages of that flying start for our nationalised transport industry should be restricted.

Another significant fact which emerges from the McKinsey Report's economic analysis is that the economics of containerisation call for a major realignment between road and rail. It makes it clear that, for all journeys of more than about 100 miles, unit trains provide the "lowest cost mode" of inland transport. That is why one of the purposes of the National Freight Organisation will be to stimulate the maximum use of freightliner services, and there is no need to apologise for that.

But the Report also issues a challenge to private enterprise, saying that most importers and exporters—this goes for manufacturers too—have not yet given enough thought to the impact of containerisation on the economics of their own businesses. If we care about keeping Britain competitive, it is time that we read a few lectures to them, because transport costs account on average for about 45 per cent. of the cost of goods to retailers, and it is therefore essential that we reap every possible transport economy.

This is one of the points which I have in mind in drawing up my proposals for the reform of carriers' licensing, which will form part of my overall transport policy and part of the proposals which I shall eventually put before the House, and on which I shall be consulting the trade unions, transport operators and industry shortly. I shall be ready to circulate my proposals on carriers' licensing later this week, and, so that the hon. Gentlemen may enjoy their full benefit, I shall place a copy in the Library.

This Government have already given more help than any previous one in stimulating the development of the container trade. The Board of Trade's 25 per cent. grants for container ships and up to three sets of containers bought with new or converted ships, our 20 per cent. grants for harbour and port facilities and the fact that we have stationed Customs staff at inland clearance depots are all examples of this.

In the last, we are again off to a flying start, because about a dozen such depots are already planned and should be operating by the end of next year. We are investing more in our ports than at any time in our history. From 1952 to 1964, investment in ports averaged £18 million a year. Last year, we invested £35 million and more and the estimate for the current year is of an out-turn of £45 million.

To meet the container traffic, we must have two things—positive promotion of port development, but under a carefully balanced national plan. I would ask the hon. Member for Worcester to think a little about the implications of the container revolution for port planning. It needs careful central thinking and planning. It is no good lightly playing off one port against another: the question is far too serious for that.

The question is whether we as a trading nation are to remain with major ports directly on the trans-Oceanic routes or are merely to provide feeder services—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members agree. I ask them to realise that, when the hon. Member for Worcester talked of our proposals as the basis for consultation on the nationalisation proposals, he made play with the fact that we were to have this strong National Ports Authority, responsible, he said, for finance, planning, investment, and pricing policy, and giving valuable common services as well to the ports for training, market research and computer services.

He laughed at that and asked, "What does it leave for the regional port authorities to do?" Of course, the answer is that it is important that the regional port authorities should not have endless interference from the centre in the details of day-to-day management. I would stress the critical importance of port planning and port policy in the years ahead if Britain is to remain in the container business.

So much for the nationalisation of ports and the so-called nationalisation of road haulage. The hon. Member for Worcester was even further from the mark when he talked about the passenger transport authorities. These are a striking and dramatic extension of the whole sphere of local government. The hon. Member smiles. He read out a document which had been put out as a basis for consultation. In fact, consultation has been taking place with some of the Conservative authorities to which he referred. I know that the Conservative Central Office have issued them all with a directive that on no account are they to play with my P.T.A.s, regardless of the advan- tages which it might bring to transport in their areas. I recognise this attempt to get the central political objective interfering with the development of policies which are urgently called for by the conditions of transport and traffic in our main conurbations.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Before the hon. Member intervenes, let me tell him that, in my discussions with local authorities and with the local authority associations, I have satisfied them about a number of the scares which he has tried to arouse over some of the details which were a basis of discussion and certainly not a final document. This is a difficulty about debates in the House. On the one hand the House says, "You must consult. How dare you produce final proposals without listening!" On the other hand, when I produce interim proposals and listen, I am told that the "basis of consultation" is regarded as final proposals—when many of them have already radically changed. I have made an offer to local government and local authorities in this country that most of them are excitedly waiting to grasp, despite the attempts which the hon. Member is making to sabotage the operation.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

No directive of any description has gone from the Conservative Central Office to local authorities. The right hon. Lady's statement is quite untrue. Secondly, why did the right hon. Lady publish her first document as a basis for consultations but make her second document confidential?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

I did not publish my first document. I am sorry—it was issued. There were various alternatives spelled out. We have been thinking—[Laughter.] I know that that is a strange occupation with which the hon. Member is not familiar, but I make no apology for telling the House that I have spent months in trying to think through the implications for my policy of the situation which exists in transport and traffic.

As the hon. Member knows, the initial document said that it could be done one way or it could be done another. I then went around the country and consulted and talked to local authorities and to bus operators. I said to them, "This is a confidential stage in which I am seeing people in a varied sequence, and it is not fair for discussions and arguments to leak out before I have gone round the country". As a result of those consultations, I produced a clearer and more specific document, going into details but still on the basis of consultations—consultations which have taken place. Local authorities to whom I have spoken are now completely aware that what I am offering is an extension of the whole sphere of local government.

This is not nationalisation. It is municipalisation or regionalisation. I warn the hon. Member that he will get himself into rather a ridiculous position if he does not accept my assurance on this point, because if I wanted to advocate nationalisation, I should do so openly, just as I have done about the docks. If I had decided that the solution of the 1947 Act to create nationalised area boards was the right one, I should have come out and said so openly. But—and these are the practical objective facts of the situation with which we all have to deal—I know that public transport can be dealt with only in the context of a wide range of other local government responsibilities—highway planning, traffic management, development planning, overspill planning, industrial location and housing. If ever there was a subject which fitted naturally into the local government field, it is public transport. That has always been my intention, and the way to do it is what we are examining.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

The right hon. Lady said that she did not publish the first memorandum. As reported in column 1737 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, she told us that it had been placed in the Vote Office where we could examine it. The second memorandum has not been made available.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

I am sorry. I corrected what I had said. I said that it had been issued. The first document was an either/or document, but the discussions on it were confidential. The second document, which is still interim, was confidential, I agree, and perhaps I made a mistake in not placing that in the Library, because it has allowed the hon. Member for Worcester to get away with some more of his inaccuracies.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Let me give one example. He took certain things out of context. Let me give one quotation about the financial aspects of the passenger transport authorities: It is the Government's declared intention to embark on a deliberate policy of giving financial support to the development and improvement of public transport. This assisttance will be given primarily in the form of infrastructure grants, i.e. grants for public investment in public transport facilities, but also in other ways …".

Photo of Mr Daniel Awdry Mr Daniel Awdry , Chippenham

On a point of order. Is it in order to quote from a document which is marked "Confidential" and which has not been issued to any hon. Member? How can we possibly follow it?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

The hon. Member for Worcester has been getting away with that initiative for the last half hour. I was saying—

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

On a point of order. After a point of order has been raised, is it not generally the rule for the Chair to reply to it?

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Hon. Members were discussing the point of order. I understand that the right hon. Lady is quoting from a document in response to a request by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker).

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Further to that point of order. When a confidential document is referred to, it is normal for that document to be made available to all hon. Members—or else no quotations are made from it. We have no objection to the right hon. Lady quoting from it, but we should like an opportunity for all hon. Members to study all the document. She is putting us in a very unfair position. That was why my hon. Friends felt that she was taking advantage of them.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

The hon. Member could get a copy from the same place as that from which his hon. Friend the Member for Worcester obtained it.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

As the right hon. Lady has admitted that she may have been wrong in not publishing the second document, may I ask her now to do so?

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

In answer to the point of order, I understand the position is that if the right hon. Lady were summarising a confidential document she is entitled to do so. If she was quoting in extenso from a confidential document, then, unless there are reasons of State to the contrary, it is in accordance with the rules of the House for the document to be laid.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

I am quite happy to lay this paper, but may I tell the House that it is completely out of date. Hon. Members are welcome to have it. The hon. Member for Worcester will be sorry to hear that the consultations have effectively taken place. Some of the points which he quoted as examples of how sinister we are will be found no longer to be applicable, but if the House wishes me to lay an out-of-date document, I am prepared to do so. In any case, so close is the relationship between the hon. Member for Worcester and Conservative authorities that he has access to it. I have nothing to hide here. I placed the ports document in the Library and I am placing the carrier licensing document in the Library. I have nothing to hide because I have given considerable thought to the details of my policy and I am only too glad to have the House set fully in the picture about what I have in mind.

The need for the strengthening and rationalisation of our public transport services is obvious. Look at the position that faces us. Already the number of vehicles on our roads has risen from 9 million only six or seven years ago to 13 million today. By 1970 there will be 18 million, and by 1980 there will be 26½ million vehicles on the roads. We ought to be preparing now to meet the challenge of that congestion, a congestion that will be even more overwhelming in our cities. Therefore, I would say that, with these passenger transport authorities, which are designed to extend the sphere of responsibility of local authorities, we are concerned with very much more than just the reorganisation of local bus services. The necessity is obvious.

Let me give the example of one conurbation where a passenger transport authority may emerge—S.E.L.N.E.C.—South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire. In that conurbation, there are 11 municipal bus services, one with only 12 buses and two with only 61, together with three private bus companies. Can anybody in his right mind say that there is no need there to gather the services together and reorganise them?

The hon. Member for Worcester has fulminated in the Press that he will organise protest meetings in every town where bus services are threatened. Let me remind him that the last time he organised a protest meeting it was against the Midland Red Bus Company. I have here a cutting from the Worcester Evening News dated 3rd June. What is the heading? The heading is: Mr. Peter Walker, M.P., calls at headquarters of Midland Red. Bus fares probe. Poor village services under discussion, too. The article states: Mr. Peter Walker, M.P. for Worcester, yesterday visited the headquarters of the Midland Red bus company and discussed the dissatisfaction of people living in Worcester and the surrounding areas with the rise in fares taking place on July 1, and the poor services, particularly in some of the villages.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Will the right hon. Lady now read out the results of my probe and the reason I found for fares having gone up being in nearly every case Government action?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

I will only tell the hon. Gentleman that, if he cares to go through the files of the Worcester Evening News for the past six months, he will find that the most frequent entry is dissatisfaction with the Midland Red Bus Company. He refers to the reasons he found for fares going up. That may be perfectly true, but I could argue as against that that the municipal bus fares are considerably lower. He would then produce arguments to show why that is invalid. The simple fact is as I have stated, and I have plenty of particulars here.

Let me give a few comparative figures. The Birmingham City Transport Department charges 4d. for one mile—Midland Red charges 6d. For two miles Birmingham Transport charges 8d. and Midland Red charges 11d. For three miles Birmingham Transport charges 11d. and Midland Red charges 1s. 4d. So it goes on. I am perfectly prepared to agree that one could qualify some of those figures in certain ways. I am not trying to distort my argument. The hon. Gentleman is; he makes sweeping allegations about how the passenger transport authorities are bound to push up the fares. They will have to push them up quite a bit to catch up with Midland Red.

The job of the P.T.A.s will be much wider than this, and it is this concept that excites the local authorities. Their job will be to draw up comprehensive plans to integrate road and rail services; to secure a better balance between road and rail. I ask those of my hon. Friends who are interested in the railway industry not to be frightened by the scares of the hon. Gentleman, who tries to pretend that it is a way to cut down the 11,000 route miles. One of the things I see the P.T.A.s doing is producing as part of their transport plan proposals for new rapid transit services, some of which could include new rapid transit railway lines. Of course, there may have to be some pruning of certain suburban rail services in order to make way for more modern railway developments. This is tie sort of concept now being considered in the Manchester Feasibility Study, to which my Ministry has contributed 75 per cent.

Therefore, I stand here and plead guilty, and quite cheerfully plead guilty, to giving the passenger transport authorities a wide range of powers to enable them to do their job efficiently. I shall give them powers to operate ancillary services of the sort that go naturally with the transport job they have to do, whether it be the setting-up of vehicle repair shops, the running of refreshment rooms and bookstalls at bus stations, the provision of a parcels service—something, incidentally, which the municipal undertakings already have the power to provide; or run taxi services, or enter into agreements with taxicab operators to give, perhaps, a more flexible and more reasonably fast service as part of an organised transport plan.

I intend to authorise the public transport authorities to organise ferry services, hovercraft services, hire car services, express bus services, tours and excursions—all in competition with private enterprise because, unlike hon. Members opposite. I do not believe in a system once brilliantly described by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) on one occasion—nationalising losses and privatising gains.

If we are to have the extension of public ownership, the publicly-owned body should have as much freedom as private enterprise to enter into some of the more profit-making activities. I therefore intend to give the public transport authorities powers to acquire compulsorily bus undertakings, or individual routes as part of their overall transport plans.

There is a very profound difference of view between me and the hon. Member for Worcester. I do not care what tag he puts on it. The difference lies in the principle in which I profoundly believe. I do not think that public transport today is an appropriate medium for profit-making. Rather, it needs help from public funds. This is what we intend to give it.

The hon. Gentleman, and the Conservative Party, had better come up to date to meet the challenge that faces us in our cities. The problem is too serious for us merely to make party political points. We have to evolve appropriate and courageous policies. My impression is that local authorities throughout the country, knowing how much local government is being squeezed out of so many activities, will respond to my invitation to come in, and take these new powers, and give their local people transport at a level they have never yet had.

5.9 p.m.

Photo of Sir Robert Cary Sir Robert Cary , Manchester, Withington

The right hon. Lady's speech—which, if I may say so, the House has enjoyed—has proved one thing, and that is that she is a thorough-going deep-dyed Socialist. Although she has made some qualifications in the line she now proposes to take, I think that she did one grave disservice to the House and to transport by making no acknowledgment of the work of her predecessor but one, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), when Minister of Transport, and the companion he appointed. Dr. Beeching, who did so much to foster plans and procedures which the right hon. Lady and her friends now enjoy. They boast of their successes, but they took the unpredictable step of dismissing Dr. Beeching.

The right hon. Lady pleads that she is not nationalising transport, in the case of the road hauliers, that is to say, but in all other aspects of the Bill which she proposes to bring to the House next Session there will be large sectors which will provide for new areas of public ownership. If she is to proceed along those lines, by the creation of her conurbations allowing public transport authorities based upon the municipalisation of transport, she will not be changing the ends of her party's policy but only changing the means.

In transport, with all its complexities and all its patterns, various and contrasting, it is not a simple matter merely to nationalise. In gas, steel, electricity and coal that can be done in one single operation, but in transport it is crude nationalisation—I think the right hon. Lady once described it as the primitive method—and she is seeking other means by which she can come to the same end, which is the outright public ownership of the transport fleets of the country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), in the clear analysis he made when opening the debate, put his finger on many aspects of the right hon. Lady's policies. As she well knows, I am concerned with only one aspect, the bus operating industry, which I have known for many years and with which I have been deeply concerned. In the few minutes at my disposal I wish to deal with that aspect of the Bill which the right hon. Lady is proposing to bring here next Session. In this Session the crown piece was nationalisation of the steel industry. I assume that in the next Session the crown piece in the Government's proposals will be the Bill to which the right hon. Lady referred this afternoon.

I was left quite breathless by the astonishing sweeping statement made by the right hon. Lady. She accused my hon. Friend of making extravagant and sweeping statements, but I have heard no more sweeping or extravagant statement from any Member of the Labour Party than that the facts show that only Socialist policies are acceptable in transport for the future. There may have been a slight variation at the end of the statement, but that the right hon. Lady should think that only in terms of Socialist policies can we have the fulfilment of the needs of our people met is astonishing.

I have some different testimony to place before her this afternoon. She is familiar with it. It was also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester. This year we had a paper laid before us, which was referred to by my hon. Friend who opened the debate. It was written by Mr. Glassborow, head of the Economic Research Department of the Transport Holding Company. No doubt the right hon. Lady and the Parliamentary Secretary have read that paper. I listened to its presentation. There are some significant passages in it. On page 13 of the paper Mr. Glassborow said: I have argued so far that a single conurbation authority is not only unnecessary, because any greater degree of co-ordination between public passenger services than at present exists can be achieved more simply, but also undesirable because it brings diseconomies of scale, removes that element of choice and competition which at present exists, produces excessive standardisation in bus design, in patterns of operation, in systems of payment and in fare scales. That is a sweeping condemnation of what the right hon. Lady said about the future of the conurbations.

I turn to the integration of bus undertakings which at the moment are beautifully balanced in terms of the private operators and the municipalities. As the right hon. Lady knows, I speak not only as one who for many years has represented in this House part of the city of Manchester which has one of the finest municipal fleets in the country, but also as chairman of a large operating company which shares many of the routes with that same fleet run by Manchester Corporation.

In the circumstances of the paper laid before us by Mr. Glassborow, to uproot the existing structure of operations as they are discharged at the moment by varying companies great or small, in terms of trying to satisfy public need and to match that need with a reasonable scale of fares charged to the public, I think the right hon. Lady will agree that to take these authorities, be they municipal or private and mix them all under one public transport authority leaving in their wake confusion and often dismay, is not the right way to proceed if we want to benefit the future of public transport.

I would rather that the right hon. Lady embarked on policies on which I cannot elaborate now. The plan she outlined this afternoon will take many years to realise. I hope that before one-tenth of those plans are realised present Government will have gone and that the Conservative Party will have an opportunity to participate in the unfolding of the Bill, which no doubt she hopes will be passed next Session, so that much of the damage which could be done in terms of conurbations may be stalled and sometimes eroded.

I am concerned about the highly organised technical staffs which exist in the municipal field and the private field. I have worked with many of them and I know their problems. The right hon. Lady is crying for the moon when she asks at this stage for a higher degree of perfection in public service transport by merely bringing in the Bill, calling it a reform and thinking that through that medium she is providing a better service. I hope that the right hon. Lady will produce a White Paper in August, as earlier in the year she indicated she would, and that we shall have the Bill published about September.

The Bill no doubt will take a high pace among items in the Gracious Speech and we shall have our first opportunity to comment upon it on the debate on the Address. I cannot wish it well, but, because of the majority enjoyed by the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends, I have no doubt that if this Parliament survives the Bill ultimately will receive the assent of the House of Commons. Whether I vote against it or not is neither here nor there for the moment, but I shall obviously vote against it, although I can detect some merit in parts of it.

I beg the Minister to be careful not to attempt, through the Bill, to impose upon municipalities proceedings which they would resist. It is not in the interests of the ratepayers of Manchester for its great capital asset of a fleet of 1,250 vehicles, worth £10 million, to be seized by a public transport authority. Although Manchester carries with that fleet a loan debt of about £2½ million, a capital asset of that magnitude enables such a loan debt to be discharged. Salford, Manchester's neighbour, with practically no loan debt, successfully operates its fleet. The smaller unit at the side of Salford—Bolton Corporation—in the last financial year made a profit of £57,000.

These are business assets which both the councils and the ratepayers may wish to keep. Yet, perhaps against the wishes of many ratepayers in the area and conurbation indicated by the Minister, it will be possible to get a Bill on to the Statute Book, despite the fact that many of the local authorities, which changed their political complexion in the last few months, do not want these proposals to come to fruition.

I cannot hope and pray that, when the Minister presents the Bill, it will fail, but I beg her to revise some of its provisions concerning the public transport authorities.

5.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Bob Mitchell Mr Bob Mitchell , Southampton, Test

I listened with great interest to the fluent, although perhaps over-long, speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker). Although his speech was at times amusing, it was devoid of content and contained no constructive statements. I had hoped to learn something about the Tory Party's alternative transport policy. Alas, I was to be disappointed. I am driven to the conclusion that the Tories have no transport policy in opposition just as they never had one during their period in office.

When the hon. Gentleman spoke of ports and docks, his speech was also completely devoid of knowledge. He spoke from the wrong standpoint. He seemed to think that the problem was one of competition between our various ports. Not so. The problem is one of competition between the ports of Britain and the continental ports. If we are to survive the container revolution, we must have a system of modernisation and planning for our ports as a whole.

The hon. Gentleman had the sauce to accuse the Government of cutting the investment programme in the ports. Until Labour came to power, there was not an investment programme in the ports. Up to 1964 port investment was running at an average of only £18 million a year. This ridiculously inadequate sum is one of the main reasons why we are in our present difficulties. There was also a lack of planning.

When the ports are reorganised and nationalised, a strong central National Ports Authority will be essential. Much of the hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted to accusing the Minister of being a Left-wing Socialist. No one has ever accused me of being a Left-wing Socialist, yet I fully support these proposals. If any industry is ripe for public ownership, it is the docks and ports industry.

Nationalisation has not been an ideology for me. It has always been a means towards efficiency. I believe in the nationalisation and public ownership of some industries, but not all industries. I had doubts about certain proposals which the Government made earlier this year, but I have no doubt that the port industry is ripe for nationalisation.

The national ports authority will have to make some difficult decisions—for instance, of the type made about Port-bury. Some hon. Members opposite think that the Portbury decision was wrong. I believe that it was right. The authority will have to assemble the resources available for port development and put them in what it considers to be the most efficient places. For some ports it will be unpleasant. I think that we have too many small ports. It may be decided on economic grounds that some of the smaller ports will have to close. These difficult decisions will cause heart-burning., particularly for the hon. Member in whose constituency the port concerned is situated. Nevertheless, the National Ports Authority must be responsible for the central planning of development and investment.

I want now to be a little critical. Paragraph 9 of the working document on the reorganisation of the ports, which was issued recently by the Ministry, says this: It is important, as far as possible, given the predominance of London and Liverpool, to achieve a balance between the regional port authorities. The R.P.As must be of sufficient size and financial strength to be able to manage their affairs effectively, adopt modern management techniques, and provide adequate scope for investment and development. The document then lists eight regional port authorities.

I doubt whether some of the regional port authorities as proposed will be able to do the job which the opening para- graph of the document sets for them. Too many regional port authorities are proposed. I favour the proposal, which has been supported by certain expert bodies, for three authorities, under the central direction of the National Ports Council—one authority for London, one for Merseyside, and one for all the rest. The British Transport Docks Board has shown that it is possible successfully to manage ports which are widely diffused all round the country. I do not know what is the concept of a region in relation to ports. Take my own port of Southampton. It comes under a regional authority which includes Portsmouth, Dover, Shoreham, Poole, Weymouth and many other places. These ports have little in common. Therefore, I can see very little reason for their regionalisation. I would prefer to see, under the National Ports Authority, the three areas that I mentioned earlier.

The document to which I have referred goes on to say that the regional port authorities shall consist of between six and 10 members. I hope that it will be six rather than 10. I have always believed that within reason the smaller the body concerned with administration and management the better.

One of the difficulties of our ports has been the preponderance of the user influence. There is on the various bodies all sorts of people often with special interests rather than with special knowledge, and this fact has bedevilled the proper management and development of our ports. Anything which will free managerial functions from the user influence will be welcomed.

The document goes on to talk about worker participation. Much has been said in the past and many documents have been written about the method of worker participation which we should have in the ports. I would rather see a type of consultative system whereby dock workers are consulted at all stages, but without direct representation on the R.P.A.s or on the National Port Authority. This document contains five suggested possibilities for worker participation. My preference is for the consultative procedure at all levels rather than direct representation on the body itself.

One of the effects of the Docks and Harbours Act which was passed earlier this year is to reduce the functions of the National Dock Labour Board. This will mean in many ports some redundancy amongst the employees of the National Dock Labour Board. I plead with my right hon. Friend to ensure that proper treatment is given to those who are made redundant. There is some indication that they are not receiving as good a deal as they should receive when they are made redundant.

Another point in this document which does not appear clear is who, under nationalisation, is to be the employer of labour in the ports. Nowhere in the document can I find any definite answer to this question. Are we to have a licensing system as we have under the Docks and Harbours Act? Those of us who considered the Docks and Harbours Bill in Committee were assured that this was purely a temporary measure until public ownership was introduced. If this licensing system were made a permanent feature, I do not think it would be acceptable to dock workers. We must have one employer, that employer presumably being the regional port authority.

The mystery about this debate is why it ever took place. It is difficult to find out why the Opposition chose this Motion for their Supply Day. They have not made any constructive proposals. Instead, they have made a purely negative attack on the Minister. My right hon. Friend, in my view, is the best Minister of Transport this country has had for a very long time, and yet the Opposition appear to be directing a personal attack on her. The Opposition are trying to develop a bogey woman in the country, the sort of thing they tried to do with Nye Bevan at one time.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

The only insult I directed to the right hon. Lady—if the hon. Gentleman considers it an insult—was to describe her as a Left-wing Socialist, and this was a quotation from her own words.

Photo of Mr Bob Mitchell Mr Bob Mitchell , Southampton, Test

I am sure my right hon. Friend would not consider it an insult to be called a Left-wing Socialist. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman attacked the Minister and her policies throughout his speech. As I say, it is very difficult to understand the purpose of this debate. I hope that some of the points I have made will be regarded as constructive and will receive a reply.

5.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Portsmouth Langstone

I ought to start by setting the record straight in one important respect. The Minister implied that during her visit to the United States she met many people who were in favour of nationalisation as an answer to the problems of radical changes in the transport system. Mr. Gulick, the acting maritime administrator in the U.S. Department of Commerce, wrote an article in which he quoted the American Secretary of Transportation, Mr. A. S. Boyd. The article said: In presenting his programme, Mr. Boyd declared: 'It is clear that two things must not happen; the maritime industry must not be allowed to die and it must not be nationalised. To do nothing would assure the former and to meet everyone's demands would require the latter. A productive and revitalised merchant marine obviously makes good sense and can benefit every American and every industry … this programme was designed to answer the questions that have plagued the merchant marine for the past several years. We must keep pace with the advancement in streamlining and co-ordinating transport administration and regulation. We must take full advantage of the revolution that is occurring.' Clearly, it is the view of the most senior man at the permanent levels of the Maritime Administration that nationalisation is not required. This point has been more than adequately emphasised.

I turn to another point that was made by the Minister. I was astonished, pleased as I always am to hear someone in this House beating the drums of containerisation, to hear the Minister proclaim that in some way this was inevitably joined with nationalisation. I am not sure what the right analogy is—whether it is a young bride appearing in the dress of a Japanese war lord, or King Kong appearing in bridal dress—but, whichever is the right analogy, this is the situation which the Minister has described.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Does not my hon. Friend think that she has confused the container revolution with the Socialist revolution?

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Portsmouth Langstone

My hon. Friend has made the point which I was coming to. The Minister implied that there has been a certain reluctance to accept this technological change in this country, and she attempted, in some senses rightly, to give credit to the British Transport Docks Board for what it has done. Nobody will dispute that the Docks Board has done some useful things. The commission of this report by McKinsey was useful, and the change of attitude towards containerisation, not only in the Docks Board but in other widespread sectors of the industry, is only to be welcomed.

I have the strongest recollection of returning from the United States in the early 1960s, when, as chairman of the International Cargo Handling Association in Britain, I was trying to bring people to realise what was happening and what was about to hit this country in transport, and having to drag the British Transport Docks Board by the scruff of the neck to our meetings. This should be emphasised. My memory is rather long in these matters, and I am not prepared to leave unanswered a Minister who proclaims in the House that, suddenly, it is the nationalised sector which is embracing the new technology. With respect, that is the most arrogant nonsense that I have heard in the House for a long time.

Nationalisation is of three kinds. There is nationalisation by proclamation. All of us in the House have had some experience of it. With no sense of shame or irrelevance, the Government spokesmen come to Westminster like muezzins to their minarets and call the faithful to legislation, leaving the Opposition to pray for the country. Then we have nationalisation by accident. This happens when the Government discover, happily for themselves, unhappily for the country, that it is difficult or impossible to disentangle a sector intended for nationalisation from sectors which, at some stage, we were assured were not intended for nationalisation. Steel has presented many problems of this sort. Transport will present many more. This Government are accident-prone to the point where their intentions in these matters cannot be regarded as wholly innocent. Indeed, some might argue that their licence to drive at all should be withdrawn. Then there is nationalisation by stealth. This happens when innocent little Measures like the data processing Bill are allowed to slip through at morning sittings.

My concern today is with the nationalisation of the ports and port industry, and there can be no doubt into which category this falls. The Minister's working document on the reorganisation of the ports proclaims the faith with all the subtlety of a sonic boom. We knew that the boom was on its way, but that makes it no more acceptable or desirable. Indeed, the only sort of boom which this Government seem able to create is a boom of nationalisation, and, if I may say so, it is a chronic boom closely associated with the chronic state of the country's economy.

I shall not repeat the whole range of arguments which I used on a previous occasion in dealing generally with the ports industry, arguments which are just as relevant today though still unanswered. I then explored the utter irrelevance of nationalisation to the main problems facing the ports. What I propose to do today is to examine, first, some of the philosophy underlying this extraordinary document, so faithful a replica of the propaganda of the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) that I am reminded of the old H.M.V. gramophone label.

Second, I shall consider some of the implications of these proposals for the numerous industries and commercial interests which are affected by them. We have heard very little about this from the Minister today. Again, the Minister is not wholly innocent of the accident-prone characteristics of these proposals. Finally, I shall suggest where, in my opinion, the real challenge lies and what this or any other Government must do to meet it.

The key to the document lies in paragraph 1, the covering paragraph of the preamble. It tells us so much about the mentality of the right hon. Lady that I am reminded of a phrase used by the philosopher Bossuet who, the House may recall, advised us to know ourselves "to the pitch of being horrified". I see that the right hon. Lady is not here; otherwise, she might be blushing. At least, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is given by nature a protection from that sort of reaction.

Let us examine with care what the document says. It does not deserve examination with care but, unfortunately, it certainly requires it. There are three key phrases. We are told that the part played by the ports must, in the first place, be viewed nationally. That is an unexceptionable sentiment. The National Ports Council does just that. Second, we are told that it must be "planned positively". In this context, as in all others, both those words need the most rigorous definition. Third, we are told that there must be a unified control of policy … to replace the present fragmentation of development". Finally, we are told—I come back to the point with which I began—that the container revolution has as one of its consequences the need to plan the future development of our ports on a national basis. This statement, too, needs rigorous examination.

Let us start with the national view. The National Ports Council has endeavoured to provide this, with some success. Its views merit respect. Its rôle regarded as indicative, and, in its most recent Report, the Council itself suggested that this should be viewed in terms of a structure of information about and interpretation of present and future demand patterns". In my view, the structure merits considerable research and attention both in the ports and in any other major sphere of industrial development.

The National Ports Council has made a good beginning. If it is abolished, someone else will have to continue. I wonder whether its abolition has come about because, having had experience of the magnitude and complexity of the problems, the Council concluded in its most recent Report: It would be unrealistic to try to plan to cover every contingency"— this from the body most concerned with our ports in the last four years— There must, in short, be an ability and willingness to deal with unforeseeable functional demands ad hoc. The Council have therefore decided that they must concentrate their planning effort at each stage on the most critical elements in the problem. I regard that as a most significant statement, which explains a great deal.

It seems to me that all decisions, wherever made, about ports and shipping tend to benefit the country if the work is well done, but I do not believe either that the work will be improved in scope, quality, reliability or relevance if the National Ports Council's staff are incorporated merely a s an information division of the National Ports Authority, or that the great and dangerous leap into the dark from so-called indicative to so-called positive planning will thereby be any more justified.

What do those two words mean? In this context, "positive" means merely that the decisions which the available management information seems to call for are no longer decentralised. Whitehall now takes the view. Whitehall now takes the decision. Whitehall now spends the money. The use of the word "positive" provides absolutely no guarantee that the view will be wider or the perspective longer, that the decision will be wiser or nationally more beneficial, than the aggregate of separate responses or decisions which it replaces. The word "positive" alone provides no guarantee that the money will be better spent. Others will merely be stopped from spending their money so that someone in Whitehall can spend it for them, probably in another place and in an area over which they have no control.

The use of the word "planning" in this context—one of the most dangerous in the whole vocabulary of politics, as encrusted with semantic overtones as a 17th century wreck encrusted with barnacles—makes no necessary contribution under any of these heads. For what can planning, whether in port development or anything else, be other than the taking of decisions to allocate available resources in the light of two factors, first, the available information about the environment most concerned, and second, the impact of political and economic pressures from within the same environment. The Minister did not mention that the whole spectrum of political and economic pressures will continue to operate exactly as before. They will not be exorcised or eliminated merely by the process of nationalisation, and the House should consider this carefully.

What the argument is about is merely obscured by the use of the phrase "positive planning". These are the proposals as I see them and which the House should discuss: first, to centralise information; second, to centralise the discussion of policy; third, to centralise the allocation of resources; fourth, in very large measure to strip the present ports, however controlled, however efficient or inefficient, whatever their resources, of control of their own destiny. I am glad to see that the Minister has returned to her seat, because she will not deny this.

No more in this sphere than in any other can the centralisation of resource allocation or of significant areas of operational decision, at the inevitable expense of local initiative and judgment, be justified by the inane incantation that it is positive planning, and therefore in some ways a form of economic Holy Writ. There may be a strong case in national port planning for a unified view of policy. There may be a limited case for unified control of policy, but the control does not require nationalisation, for the National Ports Council and the Ministry of Transport already exercise it between them in considerable measure. Certainly it does not justify nationalisation.

What we need is to substitute for an inadequate pattern of dispersed decisions on port operation and development, a greatly improved but still fundamentally dispersed pattern of decision-making and resource allocation for the ports industry. I concede that there is room for a great debate about the extent and significance of the word "inadequacy" in this context. This requires not nationalisation but the better informing of judgment, the better encouragement of initiative, the improvement of communication between the ports and all those whom they serve and who serve them, and a better stimulus to technological change. I would wholeheartedly and without qualification accept these requirements. This is what is needed, and if the Government could demonstrate that it is what will be achieved I should almost be tempted to go into the Lobby with them, if I were not suspicious. In any case, I am confident that they will not demonstrate anything of the kind.

All those requirements tend to respond better to procedures oriented towards decentralisation. If there is a lesson to be drawn from practically the whole body of experience and literature, not only from the United States but wherever big industry operates, whether private or public, it is that decentralisation is fundamental to efficiency, and not the other way round. The proposal is for centralisation, and I dispute with any hon. Member that it can be described in any sense as anything else. None of the requirements is guaranteed to be met by centralisation. We know from experience in a wide sphere that many, not only in the ports industry, are seriously inhibited by it.

I now turn to the container revolution. We are told that one of its consequences is a need to plan the future development of our ports on a national basis. That is a statement; it is not an argument. In my view there is not a shred of evidence to sustain the argument if it were made. In the past few years I have been to most of the major container ports in the world. As the Minister knows, I have been to the following operational container ports among others: Port Newark, San Juan, Honolulu, San Francisco, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Antwerp. I have not been to Cam Ranh Bay, which I am told is one of the most exciting maritime operations one can see today.

Although many of those ports have been developed by public and municipal authorities, as far as I know not one has been developed as a result of nationalisation, and in not one of those areas is nationalisation contemplated. Of the projected major container ports of the world, I have been to Skandiahamn, Tilbury, Southampton and Liverpool, and I have seen the Fos area in the Mediterranean. This is the one exception, because French ports are nationalised. I have also been to Rivalta Scriva, Hamburg and Bremen. With the exception of Fos, nationalisation was not thought necessary, and it is not contemplated or a condition of establishing the container revolution.

I should now like to deal with container inland depots. I have read the Report, which I consider to be very good. In many respects the inland container depots are a more important feature and requirement of the container revolution than the old-fashioned port areas as we know them. The depots will frequently be privately owned. A great majority in the world today are privately owned, as far as I know. They require considerable capital investment.

The Government are encouraging the capital investment, but the document clearly contemplates their incorporation in a nationalised scheme. I hope that the Minister will deny this. It would give me great pleasure and it would be a great reassurance to those making their investment if she can reply in that way. But the document says that regional authorities must consider the incorporation … of those assets and operations that serve the generality … of shipowners and shippers. The N.P.A. is enjoined to keep non-nationalised port transport facilities and services under review with a view to recommending nationalisation. The regional authorities are asked to exercise similar control over … independent services and facilities in the ports. This could cover anything. It certainly covers inland container depots, and could even cover the ships that serve them. I hope that the Minister will give a resounding negative to my supposition, if she is willing and able to do so.

The point is that time is of the essence. The main investment in containers is already committed. Critical amounts of capital have still to come, and may be poised dependent on the type of policy decision made. Success in this as much for Great Britain as for any other country will depend on those who establish effective operational services first. The year 1970 is much too late. The Minister knows that two of our major operations are due to he launched before 1970. They must be under way, operational, successful and undamaged and uninhibited by announcements about nationalisation. Do the Government seriously think that the best way to encourage the container revolution in this country is to hang a sword of Damocles of nationalisation over its head? If the Minister thinks that, I hope that she will say so.

Another point in the document is that there is clearly established a remarkable hierarchy of control. Again we have the centralisation of power—a National Port Authority with eight to twelve members appointed by the Minister and regional port authorities with six to twelve members again—I ask the House to note— appointed by the Minister. Note the composition: the National Port Authority is to have trade union representation. I do not think that anyone would take exception to that, but the novel element enters on the regional port authorities. They face … a statutory obligation to arrange consultation and negotiating machinery and worker participation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] This may be regarded as an ideal by hon. Members opposite, but if the question of workers' participation is to be brought into the nationalisation of ports fundamental consideration by the House is required. We are told in the document that the workers are to be—and this is why I suggest that this is so important—associated with the management of day-to-day operations. They are not to be consulted but associated with the management of day-to-day operations and they are to be represented on the regional port authorities in addition to having their trade union representatives. This is a fundamental change in our national thinking about matters of this kind.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

With regard to workers' representation, since they do all the work, does not the hon. Gentleman concede that they may have some contribution to make?

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Portsmouth Langstone

I have always conceded that it is desirable to give those affected by management decisions some say in them, but if they are to sit boards of directors they must share the responsibility, and how that is to be done I am not sure.

The document says that legislation is to be provided to permit the industry to apply the lessons learned. I hope that the Ministry will take an early opportunity to explain to the House what is meant by this.

Who else is represented in the new hierarchy of control? The shipowners? We heard the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) deride the contribution which user interests had made to the ports. I am the first to concede that at times and in places some user interests have been reactionary. But can it seriously be maintained that the representation which some of the great liner companies have given in the ports from Glasgow down to Southampton over half a century or more, where their great knowledge has been brought to bear about the operation of port facilities, has not been of value? Surely this has not been of such little value that in the new set-up it is to be ignored.

Where are the industrialists represented? There are no industrialists represented as of right, though some may be appointed by the Minister. Where are the commercial interests represented? Some may be appointed by the Minister, but there is no representation as of right. What sop to Cerberus is given? We are told that the right of users to object to high charges will cease to exist. We are told that this is because the Government's general policy on justification and examination of prices should provide an adequate framework of protection. I am sure that I need say no more.

We have here the substitution on the largest scale of promises for rights, and this is not something which this side of the House would support. What mention is there of the most fundamental question over which the Ministry of Transport should have some control and about which it should be doing a great deal? What mention is there of docks and roads? None at all. One of the things that struck me during recent talks at major ports was that those who were handling their problems most successfully were those in which the Departments most concerned were co-operating in an effective scale of provision of major road systems to ports. The Ministry should be doing something in this direction. I should have liked to see something much more specific in the document, but there is no mention of it. What about the distribution systems which are required? What about Customs and documentation?

It is of particular interest to me that the McKinsey Report, which contains not one word of nationalisation, suggested that it was in the interests of the United Kingdom to initiate national agreements designed to simplify the existing administrative procedures for getting a smooth flow of international cargoes. Perhaps we might be told what the Minister is doing in this respect. The Report states that in the long term a new form of international regulation of the industry will be required. It would be interesting to know whether the Ministry is exploring what these new forms are and is informing the House about it.

Where is the systems analysis? We are told that this is very important. Where is total systems analysis most highly developed? Almost certainly it is in the United States at the Stanford Research Institute, the Rand Corporation, Tempo and other organisations. What could be more effectively integrated in transport terms than the whole complex connecting Honolulu and the West Coast of the U.S.A. and Puerto Rico and the East Coast of the U.S.A? Integration there is complete.

My last word is on rationalisation. The McKinsey Report points out that rationalisation is best achieved by the voluntary co-operation of those concerned when provided with the right type and quality of information about all their joint decisions—joint investment planning, and so on. Rationalisation, yes; nationalisation, no.

6.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

The Government have now been in office for nearly three years, and some of us on this side of the House are perhaps honest enough to admit that in some ways at least they have not come up to our fullest expectations. There are reasons for this, of course, not least the fact that they were left a debt of £800 million by the previous Conservative Administration. The Government have experienced great difficulties, but they have not been without their success stories.

I believe that it was Queen Victoria who once described one of the overseas possessions as the greatest jewel in the British crown. Today I suggest that a similar description could be applied to the Ministry of Transport in relation to the present Labour Administration. I agree that some of the proposals emanating from the Ministry from time to time are controversial. This is understandable because today almost everyone seems to be vitally interested in transport.

The Ministry is led by a most able team of Ministers. I am not asking the House to take my word for this. On 13th July that highly influential journal, the Daily Telegraph, carried a feature in its London Diary headed "Mrs. Castle's Tricycle". Hon. Members will not need me to remind them that this journal has not built its reputation on its Left-wing leanings. But it had this to say about the team at the Ministry of Transport: This looks and probably is the strongest team the Government can field from any Department just now. It goes on to say about the team: All three are articulate—none more than the leading lady—all three seem to know their homework and together, as they were yesterday, form a tricycle through the wheels of which spokes are hard to put. One can, therefore, begin to understand the Opposition's resentment at this success story and the reason for the barbed criticism which underlies the Motion.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

There is no resentment, but we rather think that a better expression would have been "troika".

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

After listening to the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), who, after all, is his party's spokesman on transport, one becomes ever more convinced that the Conservative Party has no policy on transport to offer the country. The attitude of the Tory Party to public ownership is traditional; it has worshipped at the shrine of private profit for so long that it has come to believe it to be sacred. On the other hand, the growth of private monopoly does not trouble the consciences of hon. Members opposite. The Conservative Party seems to have reached a stage where the only occasions on which it is united is when it is attempting to prevent an extension of public ownership or to undermine existing publicly-owned industries.

Far from decrying any proposals the Government may make on public ownership, I welcome them. Particularly do I welcome the proposal to take the docks industry into public ownership. On 20th February, I asked my right hon. Friend when she proposed to take it into public ownership and she said that she hoped to achieve this by 1970. I am pleased, therefore, that in the memorandum issued by the Ministry two weeks ago it was confirmed that, provided that legislation is introduced in the 1968–69 Session, the vesting date for public ownership will be 1st January, 1970.

The Government have accepted the principle that in their endeavour to create an integrated transport system our ports must be reorganised on the basis of public ownership. A unified control of policy is essential to prevent continuation of haphazard development. Decisions relating to our ports will affect the wellbeing of the whole economy. Such decisions cannot be taken except on the basis of positive central planning.

In the municipally-owned port of Bristol, there is a certain amount of concern about the Government's proposals. From the point of view of civic pride, this is understandable. Bristolians were disappointed by the rejection of the Portbury proposals. There is also the fact that my right hon. Friend proposes that the Bristol Channel ports should be organised on an estuarial basis—in other words, that the port of Bristol should be linked with the South Wales ports. Perhaps, therefore, Bristolians are concerned lest they shall come under Welsh hegemony and direction.

The fascinating aspect of the Bristol saga is that the Tory party has emerged as the champion of municipalisation. Speaking as a former city councillor, I can tell the House that never have there been more ruthless opponents of municipal enterprise than the party opposite. That, of course, is consistent with its political philosophy. I say to my Socialist friends in Bristol, "Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts".

The Government feel that it is not necessary for all the ports of the country, large and small, to be brought into public ownership, but the position should be carefully watched because some of the smaller ports are developing fast, particularly so now that the container revolution is well under way.

What is more, these smaller ports are not bound by the basic minimum standard rates and conditions of employment. It is, therefore, in this light that I welcome paragraph 16 of the Ministry's memorandum which states: Each regional port authority will have a duty to keep under review all ports or port facilities in its region. Regional port authorities will be empowered to submit schemes through the N.P.A. to the Minister for taking over further ports and facilities with a view to securing the improvement, maintenance or management of a port, or a region's ports, in an efficient and economical manner. I am pleased about those proposals.

I ask my right hon. Friend to be careful in the assessment of compensation. This is an issue which, over the years, has tended to undermine the success of the nationalised coal industry. While I appreciate that the sums involved in docks nationalisation are very small in comparison with those involved in the nationalisation of the coal industry, it is nevertheless worth pointing out that, from the start, the coal industry was over-burdened with interest payments and, indeed, with interest payable on the original interest. Compensation was paid over the years to coal owners for collieries which had been denuded of capital investment over several decades and many of which had to be closed down very soon after being taken over. I trust, therefore, that this time the Government will learn from experience in public ownership.

I also urge the Government, when selecting the National Ports Authority and the regional authorities, not to fill these posts with people unsympathetic to public ownership. Again they should learn from experience. We have seen what one Macdiarmid could do in the steel industry and we do not want the story repeated in another publicly-owned industry.

I come finally to the question of worker participation. In publicly-owned industries, the Government should ensure that workers are allowed to play a full part in the management of the industry in which they obtain their livelihood. By doing so, they will be setting an example for private enterprise to follow. It goes without saying that there should be full consultation at the formative stage of important decisions, not after decisions have already been arrived at.

At present, there is renewed interest in industrial democracy. The recent Iron and Steel Act took account of that, as does the plan for the reorganisation of the Post Office. There is certainly a need to extend industrial democracy and I welcome such proposals. Over the years the docks industry has had more than its fair share of bitterness and industrial conflict. The decision to end casual labour will no doubt present many problems, but in the long run it will prove to be one of the more enlightened decisions of the Government.

I speak as Member for a docks constituency. In Newport, we are proud of our publicly-owned docks. Just over two weeks ago, we had the privilege of a visit by my right hon. Friend and I believe that she was impressed by what she saw. On Friday this week, the hon. Member for Worcester is visiting my constituency and its docks. Seeing that he is his party's spokesman on transport, I hope that his visit will help him to appreciate the benefits of public ownership. If it does that, the visit will not be in vain. Meanwhile, I hope that the House will treat this Motion with the contempt that it deserves, for it is merely an attempt to divert the Government from their endeavours to place the British economy on a sound footing.

6.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Bessell Mr Peter Bessell , Bodmin

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes), even though I do not agree with very much of what he said, because at least his speech had the merit of sound logic from a Socialist point of view, and a great deal of synthetic heat has been generated during the debate on both sides of the House.

The most important statement which has emerged so far is that of the right hon. Lady when she said that the only practical proposals for transport are Socialist ones. That was an honest statement, and it was typical of the ideological integrity of the right hon. Lady. Nevertheless, it was positive evidence of the accuracy of the suspicions voiced by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), in his opening speech, that this Government remains dedicated to the 19th century notion that public ownership is a sort of magician's wand and that, wherever there is a problem, all that one needs to do is wave this wand and, behold, instant Utopia.

It will not be news to the Government that the Liberal Party will oppose any measure of nationalisation which may be introduced in this Parliament or within the foreseeable future. I want, in that connection, to refer particularly to the nationalisation of bus companies and the setting up of the public transport authorities which are proposed by the Minister.

No case for the public ownership of bus companies has been made by the Minister, by any of the documents published by her Ministry or by impartial observers and authorities. The system which is proposed of setting up public transport authorities is made much worse by the fact that they will have the right to select not only the bus companies that they may choose to take over, but the routes which they consider to be more profitable or more desirable for public ownership, leaving privately-owned bus companies literally with the most unprofitable routes under their control.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Is it my hon. Friend's understanding that the Minister intends to nationalise organisations such as the Orpington Rural Transport Company, which is a highly responsible and public-spirited company operating four mini-buses, of which I have the h3nour to be president?

Photo of Mr Peter Bessell Mr Peter Bessell , Bodmin

My hon. Friend has made the point which I am trying to make perhaps more succinctly than I have succeeded in doing.

Under the Minister's proposals, there is doubt that a regional passenger transport authority would have the complete right to take over the operation to which he refers and would be able to make whatever use of it that it chose. The consequence is that an economically viable bus company could be put in a position where it would fail in its obligations to the community, and where it might fail completely and go into bankruptcy because it had been robbed by a hungry Government of its profitable routes and left with no more than the cash-loss routes which are nevertheless a social necessity. I believe that that is quite absurd, as well as being a disgraceful proposal.

In addition, as the hon. Member for Worcester said, the passenger transport authorities are to consist of areas which are to be designated by a Ministerial Order. Any local authority may discover that it is part of such an area, and it will have no voice and no say in the selection of the Minister.

Secondly, it is the ultimate intention to cover the whole of the country, although, as far as I have been able to discover, London is excluded for some curious reason.

Thirdly, not only are the areas designated by the Minister, but the members of the boards will be selected arbitrarily by her, and it has already been pointed out by the hon. Member for Worcester that there will be no opportunity for an objection by a local authority and no possibility of a public inquiry. Surely that is dictatorship at its very worst, and something which—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) laughs, but it is not a laughing matter when the rights of democratically elected local authorities are to be taken away from them in this arbitrary manner by the Government.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

Has the hon. Gentleman ever opposed the existence of traffic commissioners, who license passenger buses and bus routes throughout the country and can revoke them?

Photo of Mr Peter Bessell Mr Peter Bessell , Bodmin

That is completely different. In a situation of this sort, where existing privately-owned companies are operating in a responsible manner, an arbitrary decision by one of the passenger transport authorities can result in their being taken over in toto or in part, robbing them of their profitable lines and leaving them only with their unprofitable lines, which is something which would not be contemplated by responsible traffic commissioners.

In addition, the Minister listed a frightening collection of proposals which she intends to put into effect and powers which she intends to give to these passenger transport authorities. Taxis, car hire firms, hovercraft services, repair shops and even refreshment depots at bus stations may be taken over and operated as nationalised undertakings. I believe that this is a grave infringement of liberty which I am confident that my right hon. and hon. Friends on this bench will oppose vigorously.

I do not propose to speak at length, but I must turn briefly to docks and harbours. On 14th April, at Bristol, the right hon. Lady is reported as saying that the port industry of the country could be expected to be taken over by the Government and nationalised within the life of the present Parliament. I would be the first to admit that there is a serious lack of full efficiency at the ports. I would admit, too, that the long-standing difficulties between labour and management are far from being resolved, and that there are many very bad examples of the misuse of the worker force in the docks. I was astounded and horrified recently when, for the first time, I realised that the retiring age for a dock worker is still 68 and that his pension is only 25s. a week. Those are matters on which I should expect any radical Government to take action.

However, I do not believe that taking radical action means simply reverting to what I have already referred to as the 19th century policy of nationalisation. How much better it would be if we could have a new charter for all dock and port workers. How much better it would be if there was a proper allocation of Government funds for the modernisation of workers' facilities at the docks and the provision of many of the minimum requirements which are denied to them today. How much better it would be if the Government would utilise some of the money which will be involved in the purchase of docks for nationalisation for constructive purposes of this sort.

I should like to see an effective joint control of our docks and harbours by the unions, non-union workers, existing managements and local authorities, but I do not believe that the real solution to the existing problems lies in nationalisation, and I would hope that, in the latter half of the 20th century, the Government would be more forward-looking.

I recognise only too well the very real difficulties under which the right hon. Lady and her colleagues are operating. I say nothing about the cut-back in the road programme due to the economic difficulties of the Government. I realise that all her proposals are subject to Treasury approval, and I recognise, too, her honest desire to provide a programme for road construction, for better airports and for modernising the railways.

The right hon. Lady is a hardworking and conscientious Minister who has a heart as well as a head. This has been well displayed by her attitude to the rail passenger services, and the fact that she has been prepared to consider them in terms of social need, and not merely in terms of economic viability, but, in view of her quite astounding statements this afternoon about Socialist nationalisation, I ask her to think again and to abandon these wasteful, needless nonproductive schemes of public ownership which might have had an application even in the years between the wars, but certainly have no application whatsoever under modern economic and industrial conditions in Britain.

I ask the right hon. Lady instead to use the money which will be wasted for this purpose, money so scarce and so precious, for positive progress under private and under municipal ownership.

6.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell), and particularly to what he said about worker participation in the industry. I know that this is of tremendous interest to the Liberal Party, but I remember that when the Companies Bill was discussed in Standing Committee, and this question was raised, the hon. Gentleman was present on only one occasion. I think that we must, therefore, treat his remarks with the suspicion which is developed when a person pays little attention to occasions when an important issue like this is raised.

I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the pros and cons of nationalisation. I think that the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd), who, unfortunately, is not here at the moment, gave all the arguments for it when he spoke of the need for rationalisation, of the need for integration, and of the need for efficiency. We on this side applaud these aims, but it is just these things which are missing from the port authorities at the moment, and it is for this reason that we on this side of the House, dogma or no dogma, deep-dyed Socialist that my right hon. Friend may or may not be, support the idea of nationalising the docks industry.

I turn now to deal with some of the points made by my right hon. Friend in the document which she put out saying what is and what is not to be contained within the ambit of the regional port authorities. One of the things which my right hon. Friend left very much in doubt, and at their discretion, was the question of lighterage and towage under the new regional port authorities. It seems to me that lighterage is an important element which must be included in any system of public ownership, particularly if one thinks of the Thames and the Humber, on which so much cargo is carried by lighters. To ensure that ports are used efficiently it is essential that lorries, dock facilities, and everything connected with lighterage should be brought within the ambit of nationalisation.

The argument that this has something to do with the waterways does not add up to very much. If we want an integrated transport system, we must integrate all the lighter, barge, and canal traffic with the general traffic going through the ports.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

Is the hon. Gentleman advocating the abolition of the free water clause in the case of the London Water Authority for lighterage or the complete nationalisation of them?

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

I am advocating the complete nationalisation and integration of all people concerned with the transport of goods. Does that satisfy the hon. Gentleman?

I think that the peripheral agencies which exist within the port authorities, the forwarding agents, the specialised services and so on, should all be included within the ambit of nationalisation. There are many people who act in the classic way of entrepreneur. They do not own the goods, neither do they service them. They merely take them from one person and place them at the disposal of another. All that they do is pick up a telephone and find out which ship is going where, and what space is available on it.

Many of these services could well be put under the control of a nationalised authority. In Manchester, all these services are carried out by one agency. The system works efficiently, and the authority is able to use its position to offer rebates to exporters and users because it controls the situation. This is the sort of thing that I want to see operating in other ports.

What is to happen to the dock worker under this new system? One thing that is certain is that dockworkers wish all the operations of the ports to be taken under public ownership. They are thinking of their work, of road transport, of the various assets and facilities at the docks, and particularly of their employers. One thing which became evident from a meeting of the unofficial port workers' committee in Hull is that there is a suspicion at the moment about the licensing system for port employers, the 80 per cent. and 20 per cent. dictum. This system is creating grave suspicion—I am not here to argue whether this is right or wrong. The point is that this has been a bone of contention for some time. People are wondering who are to be among the 20 per cent., who are to be among the favoured few. They are wondering whether those who have taken a militant attitude to trade unionism will be penalised.

These are some of the problems with which the authorities are faced while trying to work out a system of modernisation and decasualisation. I am certain that if, when my hon. Friend replies to the debate, he says that after these ports have been nationalised there will be only one employer, a great deal of the suspicion and controversy will be removed from the docks, to the benefit of the workers, the users and the economy of the country.

One of the things about which people are suspicious is what is to be the position of the large shipping lines and the large users of particular ports. Will they have part of the labour force assigned to them permanently? What will be their relationship to the assets which they use on the docks? Will these assets be under public ownership, and be leased to the big shipping lines, or the big stevedors, or will they be rented for a certain time?

What will be the position of the people who use the wharves, quays, and berths? What kind of restrictions will be placed on them? Will they have an overriding right to a particular berth or quay, or will they have to take their place along with other users of the port? If they are to be given a special position, will any limitation be placed on them? For example, will they have to show that they will use a particular quay or berth for at least 75 per cent. of the working year, or something like that?

If a system of leasing is adopted, there could be under-utilisation of port assets. This is something which we are seeking to avoid by nationalisation and by dealing with the whole problem of the use of our docks and harbours.

I turn quickly to the question of the nationalisation of public transport. I welcome this for a variety of reasons. I spent my early youth on Merseyside. In that area at one time we had five bus companies running the same routes and picking up the same passengers. We had a wastage in terms of organisation and the use of manpower, and there was a difference in the tickets and a difference in fares. Buses picked up passengers at one point but were not prepared to put them down at another. All of this led to total confusion among the bus companies, the users of the buses and, worst of all, it was a terrible waste of assets.

I am particularly concerned with a situation that arose in my constituency and with my union. At the start of this year there was a strike by members of the East Yorkshire Motor Services. The men working for this company were duplicating certain runs made by buses belonging to the Hull Municipal Corporation. The Corporation busmen were given a bonus; the East Yorkshire people were not given that bonus, although they were doing the same work, observing the same schedules, and carrying the same passengers. If there was to be efficiency for the sake of good working relationships and the establishment of a sensible and rational attitude to the problems of that part of Kingston upon Hull there was no sense in having two different bus companies running the same routes.

If we are to achieve what we hope to achieve we must have a rationalisation not only of the part played by the bus companies, but also of wage structures and proper working conditions for people in the bus transport industry. This is one industry in which there is much need for reorganisation, for a re-thinking about the system of payments, and for the provision of proper rewards for what is a very tiring and soul-destroying, and yet, at the same time, very responsible—and at times dangerous—occupation.

The hon. Member for Bodmin said that there was a terrible fear that if any part of the private bus companies' services were taken over it would be those which were making money. This would be a reasonable argument if it were true, but it is the services which are losing money which private bus companies are so keen to lose. They do not want to provide the social services which are needed in the villages. It is precisely those services which the bus companies do not wish to use; they wish to use the profitable services, which they are duplicating with municipal authorities.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

Is the hon. Member not aware that it is the profits from the city centre routes which subsidise the country routes?

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

I would be prepared to accept that as a reasonable point if I were not aware of the keenness with which the private bus companies discard the unprofitable services and concentrate on the profitable ones.

Photo of Mr Peter Bessell Mr Peter Bessell , Bodmin

Does not the hon. Member realise that many local private bus companies are compelled to run unprofitable services by direction of the traffic commissioners? It is the removal of the profitable services which they reasonably fear.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

I appreciate that, but I return to my main point. The appeals made by private companies to withdraw services or increase fares are made in relation to those routes which are unprofitable. If a company wants to run a system based entirely on the profit motive and not on a basis of social service this sort of thing will happen continuously.

One of the major disappointments that I have had since I became a Member has concerned the part played by the British Transport Holding Company in companies in which it has a large shareholding. It has a holding of 48 per cent. in the East Yorkshire Motor Service and a holding of 44 per cent. in the Ribble Motor Service, yet these large shareholdings by this nationalised holding company have not been reflected in its attitude to the people working in the industry. I hope that when the various regional authorities are established in respect of bus companies a better attitude will be displayed to the important people —those who play their part in this essential public service.

What will happen to the holding company when it loses its bus services? It will be left mainly with various interests in the shipping industry. As my right hon. Friend knows, for a long time I have been an advocate of the public sector's taking a greater share in the coastal and home trade shipping industry. This covers British Railways' ships, those belonging to the holding company and those belonging to various nationalised power boards. My right hon. Friend talked about the efficient handling of goods from the point of origin to the final destination. I come in a complete circle to what I said at the beginning of my speech, when I was talking about efficient handling of the ports. We also need efficient handling of the ships using the ports.

At the moment, the question of the control of ships, their destinations and heir cargoes, is completely in the hands of private shipowners. We have had the spectacle of the British shipping industry as a whole carrying a smaller share both of our imports and our exports. Overall, we have had a balance of payments deficit in British shipping in the last few years. With the ships that British Railways control—and their record of controlling is nothing to boast about—the ships that belong to the holding company, most of which are managed by private firms, and the ships controlled by various nationalised power boards, we have the nucleus of a very effective and powerful fleet which can be of tremendous importance in our trade with Europe and around our own coasts. We can carry goods efficiently by road or rail, in containers, into the docks and on to our own ships, where we can control the way they work, their destinations and their efficiency.

I want to say a word on the question of worker participation. In the docks, more than in any other industry, there is a history of bad industrial relations and suspicion. In the docks, people must be shown that they can have confidence in the people who manage the ports. At all levels people must know what the aim is and what the problems are. This is particularly true in the case of containerisation. There is a rundown in the labour force at our ports and in the past few weeks various speculations have been made as to the extent of this rundown. It has been possible, because of good worker relations, to run down the labour force in British Railways and in the mines, and in my view the docks, under nationalisation, should be able to deal with a similar problem.

But there must be participation at every level. There must be communication upwards and downwards. There must be a shared responsibility and, above all, an understanding of what the future of the ports will be, the aims of management, in which the workers are participating, and the overall aim for the industry and the country. The debate has been welcome because it has enabled us to confirm our belief that the ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange is essential to a socially just society.

6.50 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

The knockabout turn of the Minister reminded me of the 1945 General Election, when one of the main controversies was over nationalisation, which her party presented as a magic cure for almost every evil. In spite of our warning, the picture of the fine things which would follow once private ownership and the wicked profit motive vanished so captivated people that the Socialists won the election. However, when they came to translate promises into performance, it became apparent that the mere change of ownership solved nothing. It did not mean higher productivity, the end of the need to earn a profit or even happier industrial relations. Deficits, strikes and poor output were the sorry record of nationalisation because of which the party opposite was rejected in 1951.

For 13 years, the Socialists languished in opposition, which explains why they are called the wasted years—because they apparently did not learn the error of their ways. The nationalisation of steel, which has just been completed, turns out to be not the last chapter of an old story, as we were led to believe, but the beginning of a new drive for State ownership of the most virulent kind, with ports, lorries and docks on the requisition, rather than the shopping, list. This comes when the railways, after a generation of nationalisation, are still costing the taxpayer 6d. in every £ of income. In view of this failure of nationalisation, where it has been tried, to solve transport problems, why have more now?

According to one Lady's hand-outs on the ports: Unified control of policy is essential to replace the present fragmentation of development. Hearing this, one could be forgiven for thinking that the ports existed in an unbridled, free-for-all, laissez-faire world, but the truth is the reverse. The right hon. Lady has all the power that anyone could desire. Her control is already so powerful that she could hold up for months the building of a badly needed container berth in Scotland and eventually authorised its construction only in answer to a Question from me, on the very eve of the Pollok by-election—a deathbed repentance which, I am glad to say, did her party no good at all.

The objective of the control which the right hon. Lady wants is apparently a balance between the ports, but how does she know what is the right balance any more than Pilate knew what was truth? The arrogant assumption that she or someone at the centre knows all the answers means so much centralised control that local enterprise and development will never flourish. Centralisation of this kind is a recipe not for growth, but for stagnation.

The right hon. Lady displays the same attitude towards freight. She said in another of her hand-outs, for which we are grateful, as they show how she is thinking: The first principle behind the N.F.O. is that it is ridiculous to have two publicly-owned transport organisations in competition with each other. It is competition which she does not like, because that upsets her idea of the right balance. She goes on: I can't believe that anyone will seriously defend this waste of money which comes from competition.

This is the language of the police State and of dictatorship—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish!"] Of course it is—and certainly not that of a democracy. Coming from a woman, it is all the more incred- ible. Or did the right hon. Lady enjoy, during the war, having to put up with the utility clothes which the gentlemen in Whitehall provided for her, rather than being free to indulge her own fancy in fashion? Does she believe in freedom? Does she not understand [Laughter.]—Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but this is a serious matter.

Does the right hon. Lady not understand that the alternatives of road and rail, although they may appear to her and her Socialist planners to be wasteful, provide the man in the street with that most valuable thing—freedom of choice? If this choice is a waste, does this mean that she thinks that it is ridiculous to have three publicly-owned fuel organisations in competition, and that we will soon be denied choice among coal, gas and electricity? That is certainly the logic of what she says and the country should be made aware of it. One hon. Member asked why we were having this debate: it is to alert the country in time.

Far from being a waste, choice is the customer's only defence against the abuse of monopoly power, of being forced to take it or lump it, which is clearly her intention for transport users. The right hon. Lady's handout Foes on to say: The second principle behind the N.F.O. is that if we aren't to have an unnecessary waste of our resources the railways must carry as much as possible. What she is saying is that, because they are there, the railways must be used. But this attitude spells stagnation and not development. It could have been just as easily used to justify retaining the stagecoach and the canals rather than developing the railways. Indeed, if her policy had been applied 130 years ago, there would have been no railways today to worry about.

Does the right hon. Lady not see that, by talking like this, she brands herself as a reactionary to development and change and that it is sometimes economically right to discard the old? Does she never discard a dress because it is out of fashion, although it is not worn out? Of course she does. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what will be the extra cost of this centralised diversion through the N.F.O. of traffic from road to rail. Also, what will be the extent of diversion of traffic? Will it be 1 per cent., 2 per cent., 3 per cent.? What effect, if any, will it have on congestion on the roads?

Congestion, not ownership, is the real transport problem. The right hon. Lady's proposals for passenger transport show the same irrelevant emphasis on ownership, the same blind faith in "integration", a word which seems to mesmerise her, but which, by itself, offers no solution. She is careful to make a gesture towards local control, but that is quickly shown to be meaningless, since she retains the rights to refuse membership of the Authority to anyone whom she considers unsuitable—presumably because he is a Tory, for example—even though put up by the local authority. She makes a worthy call for new development, but immediately undermines it by the assumption that there is a right balance between road and rail irrespective of passenger choice which she will manipulate by grants and subsidies to paper over the question of costs.

But costs are vital to any worthwhile decision on transport. In my opinion, there should not be any overall blanket of subsidies. People should pay for what they get and they should know what they are getting and what they are paying for. Then, according to their own priorities, they can allocate their resources in the way they think best instead of having it done for them by the Minister—because that is all that subsidies amount to; all they amount to is the Government saying, "We think that your transport should be cheaper, so we will make your housing dearer by putting part of the cost of transport on the rates".

Surely that is a childish way to behave. Most of us can well make our own decisions ourselves if only the Minister will give us the true facts. If some people are genuinely too poor to pay the full cost of their travel, let them be personally given help if necessary, but do not let us have a general subsidy for everyone which, by making the existing system artificially cheap, prevents new developments which might otherwise take place.

On 22nd February, when we were discussing transport policy in the House, the Minister uttered a cri de coeur, which she repeated this afternoon. She said, "Public transport cannot be left to struggle on unaided". And so the right hon. Lady has made these proposals for P.T.A.s to help, as if they were something radically new. There is nothing new about it. There is no need to argue about their merits, or whether they will work or not. "Why look in the crystal ball?" as the late Mr. Bevan said. Why indeed, when all the right hon. Lady has to do is to step outside her Socialist ivory tower into the world of reality and to take a look at London—because in London transport is nationalised.

There, the conditions for integration and all the other things which the right hon. Lady wants already exist to the nth degree. Yet in London the tubes are still unbuilt, the buses still run in convoy because nobody knows where they are and it is only the private taxis which have wireless to signal what their position is.

In fact, after a generation, public ownership of transport in London has achieved precisely nothing because ownership is irrelevant to the problem of transport. Whoever owns it will make it work if only the Minister creates the right conditions—and by creating "the right conditions" I mean, first of all, the roads. The right hon. Lady was wildly wrong when she said that the Conservative Government had no road programme. Of course we had a road programme, and it is one which we never cut, and which she has cut.

What it means is getting the roads right, the traffic engineering, the parking places related to the capacity of the roads and, above all, co-ordination. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will like that word, but the co-ordination that is required is not the co-ordination of the transport operator. That is not what is lacking. It is co-ordination in the Government and local authority machines, particularly with regard to land use, that needs looking into, and that is the proper sphere for Ministerial activity.

The right hon. Lady should get that framework right, find out the real costs of road and rail and enable people to have the facts so that they may choose sensibly. She would then be doing something worth while and much more valuable than coming down from Mount Sinai, as she seems to think she has done, with a false set of commandments.

I know that the Minister is a dedicated Socialist. I know that she believes in centralisation. I know that she has great faith in the power of the State—though why she should have such faith I cannot imagine, because it will be the same sort of people who are running it. But, equally, I think that she wants to get practical results. If she does, I urge her, before she goes any further, to explain to us why the principle of public ownership which has not worked in London should work any better in any of the four conurbations which she mentioned.

At the same time, the right hon. Lady might explain why Scotland is not included. I am delighted that it is not included and delighted that there is no Scottish Minister. If it means that Scotland will not be included, no one could be more pleased than the Scots. But we should like to know why.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

There will be a row if Scotland is not included.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

When there is so much that requires to be done, I ask her not to waste her own time and that of her officials, and the time and energy of countless transport workers throughout the country, to say nothing about the time of the House, in organising a change of ownership which will achieve precisely nothing except to create a vast bureaucratic machine, a great empire, perhaps, for the Minister, but a poor transport service for the people of the country. For transport is a living thing. The solution cannot be stamped out once and for all as a pastrycook makes a cake. It requires the gardener's patience to train and direct it, with constant attention to changing conditions. It is an endless adventure.

I urge the Minister—I notice that she is looking at her speech; I hope that she is listening to me—to leave her doctrines behind her, to go out and look at what is happening in London and to seek the practical and gradually evolving solutions which alone will make transport work satisfactorily and efficiently.

7.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I was astonished by the speech which followed the remark by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) that my right hon. Friend's speech had been a knock-about. The speech by the right hon. Member for Hillhead was slapstick. I have never heard anything like it in my life. He objects to a flat subsidy right over the field, and yet he was a junior Minister, under a Secretary of State with two other junior Ministers, at a time when my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) described the three of them on the Government Front Bench as the Trinity of Faith, Hope and Charity. Now we know that he admits that up to now there has been no solution of the transport problem. That is what he says.

I know that Scots are vigorous, but his was an extraordinary performance. He "flew off the handle" because for the first time my right hon. Friend has made a conscious effort to see how, with the maximum freedom of operation, we can integrate and co-ordinate our transport services. Indeed, that must be done. We cannot go on in the twilight world of licensing and so-called private enterprise. How many private enterprise passenger services are there in this country? Most are owned by British Railways. Every one is conditioned by the traffic commissioners, who decide routes, licensing and stopping places.

For hon. Members opposite to talk about free enterprise in transport either of goods or of passengers is a piece of nonsense. Over the last 16 to 20 years we have heard Transport Minister after Minister asked to do something to convince the traffic commissioners of the need for a bus service from one village to another. The whole transport service has been conditioned by the system set up by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite when in power and yet, for some extraordinary reason, as soon as they are in opposition they say that the system is wrong. Because my right hon. Friend is doing something about it, they criticise her.

I heard from my right hon. Friend today one of the best speeches that I have heard from a Minister of Transport during my 17 years in the House. My faith was restored. It is about time that somebody said that we cannot run in this overcrowded island a system of transport for people on road or rail if the principal motivation in doing it is to see how much money can be made out of it. That is why we have licensing systems. The whole country is governed by regulations—with traffic lights, policemen on point duty, and so on—to save people on the roads.

I trust that the hon. Member for Hillhead—I am tempted to call him my hon. Friend, because he is a friend of mine—accepts that he was making a knock-about speech. It was fun to listen to him, though some of his remarks were astonishing. If we are to have an efficient transport system, we cannot afford some of the duplication that used to go on. In the Clyde Estuary area, from Glasgow to Dumbarton, we used to have four means of transport; two main roads and two railway lines. One bus route, on the upper road, was eventually removed, and the lower bus route was kept on.

It was nonsense, for this 15-mile journey, to have four means of transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) will support what I am saying, because he used to drive the old Caledonian trains on this route. His train probably carried six passengers while the one going in the opposite direction carried four.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

I am delighted that my hon. Friend should refer to my past activities. To be factual, when the Caledonian Railway was running there were also the Glasgow, South Western and Great Highland Railway. When the L.M.S. came in, it embodied the old Caledonian Railway.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I am obliged to my hon. Friend and I am comforted by the comments of the hon. Member for Hillhead to the effect that it does not matter who owns such an enterprise. The Welsh are quickly converted to a good idea. It does not matter who owns a service as long as an efficient means of transport is being provided for the public. But whoever owns it must not constantly be looking over his shoulder at his bank manager because the service is unprofitable and his overdraft is rising.

A really efficient transport industry cannot be in the hands of private enterprise. Our old friend Jack Maclay introduced the Highlands and Islands Shipping Bill to enable the State to run Highland shipping because the private shipping organisation "went bust." MacBrayne's could not make shipping and transport pay in the Western Isles. The Tories did not nationalise that company, but, instead, guaranteed the shareholders 6 per cent. The State ran it and took responsibility for it—but assured the shareholders 6 per cent., win or lose.

The present Minister of Transport is not as daft as that. She comes from Lancashire, where folk know their business. So do the Scots—that is, all except the hon. Member for Hillhead. He is prepared to run the whole show and allow everybody to make profits on the profitable routes but allow the State to cover the losses of the unprofitable ones. Like the coal mines, the railways and everything else, hon. Gentlemen opposite want the State to step in when losses are made.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

I was careful to say that I did not believe in subsidies. The hon. Gentleman is implying that I am in favour of them and that a subsidy should be paid on non-profitable routes. I do not believe in that.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

The hon. Gentleman sat on this side of the House for 13 years. He was a Transport Minister and was at one time a junior Minister at the Scottish Office. He was one of the Holy Trinity of Faith, Hope and Charity.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

For 13 years he waltzed through the Lobby in support of Conservative plans to give subsidies to farmers, shipbuilders, the railways, MacBrayne's and dozens of others. Grants galore were given for capital investment and all sorts of other things.

Since then I have heard the hon. Gentleman rightly advocate a system of incentives. In a closely-knit island like Britain, with the whole system of processing being so overcrowded, this is the only way to increase productivity. However, the hon. Gentleman is still fond of placing Questions on the Order Paper calling for bigger grants and greater allowances of public money to assist private investors in various types of industries.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

Mr. Galbraith indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

The hon. Gentleman now appreciates that giving subsidies galore is not the answer. His conversion to the Labour Party's view is even greater than the conversions achieved at the height of the Evangelical Movement in Wales, in my youth.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Torrington

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the conversion of the Prime Minister to the Common Market concept has been as big as that achieved on the road to Damascus?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. We are discussing transport.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

The Common Market has nothing to do with this debate, but I would be glad to discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman on another occasion.

The hon. Member for Hillhead talked about freedom of choice, said that there was freedom to choose electricity if people wanted it and went on to say that he was against flat rate subsidies. I was astonished to hear him say that because many of my hon. Friends were in the House when the hon. Gentleman's father was a Minister at the Scottish Office. His father was popular with hon. Members on both sides; and for a Scottish Office Minister to be popular at all in this House takes a bit of doing.

The hon. Gentleman's father is Chairman of the Hydro Electricity Board—

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I accept that he is no longer in this post, but he was for a number of years. Is the hon. Member for Hillhead aware that the Board gets a flat-rate subsidy from the more prosperous regions so that the people living in the Highlands and inaccessible parts of Scotland may have electricity at the same price?

Hon. Gentlemen opposite frequently say that private transport operators must be able to operate the more profitable routes if they are to provide services on the less profitable and unprofitable routes. This is only right. The traffic commissioners say that if a private operator wishes to run a service from A to B, he must be prepared to run a service from X to Y, X to Y being an unprofitable route. Indeed, if an operator wants to run a service, which he knows will be profitable, to the exclusion of all other services, he will not receive a licence from the commissioners. The hon. Member for Hillhead is now objecting to this system.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

Mr. Galbraith indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

He is out of step with everybody else. He is like "Our Bill". Although most of his speech was sheer nonsense, I will not continue to have fun at his expense, because many hon. Members want to speak in the debate.

Problems arise in our big cities as a result of the way in which municipal bus services are operated. Municipal bus services in Glasgow run to various points on the perimeter of the city. Where I live—and since I am nearing pensionable age, in a decade or so I will be spending much more time there—on the boundary of Clydebank and Glasgow one can take a 2d. fare on the municipal bus. A person living just over the boundary line wishing to catch the bus to Glasgow must pay 1s.

This is a serious problem and the Government at present can do nothing about it. If we get a regional passenger organisation, whether it be private enterprise or not, I hope that something can be done to enable people living in such contiguous areas to get the same concessionary fares. In due course, between certain hours my wife will be able to travel to Glasgow for 2d. while a person just across the road will have to pay Is. on the same bus because he lives outside the Glasgow boundary. That anomaly should go.

Everyone who has been in industry knows that the cost of transport lies in the handling. It is not in moving the product on railway lines or on the road, but in taking it off the production line, putting it on a vehicle and then, at the other end taking it off that vehicle and putting it on to another. When we are considering integrating transport to make it more efficient, the manufacturer must be brought into the picture. Standardised container units, standardised palletisation, and mechanical loading devices can be introduced over a wide area of industry, and I hope that a serious effort will now be made to go right into transport systems and transportation costs. I hope that in doing that, my right hon. Friend will pay special attention to the possibilities of expanding the use of mechanical handling to overcome the difficulties of loading and unloading on road and rail.

I compliment my right hon. Friend on believing, as I do, that to try to provide transport in a congested island with a population of 54 million on the basis only of profitable investment will fail completely, and lead to chaos. The only alternative is to put the transportation of goods and people on a Socialist basis that is motivated by the needs of the people—

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

We pay for it. The taxpayers pay for it. Who else does the hon. Gentleman think pays for it?

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

The hon. Member said a little while ago that those in private enterprise could not provide the transport necessary because of having to look over their shoulders all the time at the bank manager. That is exactly what the Chancellor of the Exchequer is doing all the time on behalf of the whole nation—looking over his shoulder to the international bankers to see whether they will support us with the finance to run the country.

I hope that when the hon. Gentleman makes his complaint he will realise that when the private haulier cannot run his private transport and other services without looking over his shoulder to his bank manager, he is doing just what the Chancellor of the Exchequer is compelled to do. Therefore—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Interventions must be brief—especially in the midst of a peroration.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

It is true that in international banking and finance we have the merchant bankers and merchants always looking over their shoulders to the international bankers but, when we have a socialistically motivated enterprise to serve the people as a whole, my right hon. Friend will be looking over her shoulder at hon. Members to see that we get good service for our constituents. I would rather have my right hon. Friend looking over my shoulder—

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

We—the community, the taxpayers. Who, in the name of fortune, pays for everything in the country? It is the consumer, and no one else. Who pays the farmer and the manufacturer of motor cars? We do—the people who use them. The consumer pays for everything he consumes, either through taxation or through his income. Is it thought that there is a supernatural force that pays for these things? The consumer pays for everything, one way or the other. The hon. Gentleman knows that very well, and he is just trying to exploit the situation by talking about international trade and banking. My right hon. Friend is charged with organising our transport system, and I certainly believe that she has started far better than has any Minister in the last 20 years.

7.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

I am very grateful for the chance to speak while the right hon. Lady the Minister is still here. I shall not detain her for more than a few moments. During her speech she felt unable to let me intervene, and I quite understand it, as she had much to say. I want to draw one point to her attention. She said that she was disappointed because a lot of private enterprise industrialists were hanging back from the freightliner scheme.

Quite independently of any debate today I was slightly worried, because I spent the morning with the General Manager of the Western Region being told that one of my large industrialist constitutents would have to wait four or five months for an estimate for the freightliner service as the Western Region was inundated with requests for such estimates.

I hope that later in the debate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will explain who is right. Are the private industrialists hanging back, with the railway authorities short of inquiries for freightliners as a result, or is the General Manager of the Western Region right when he says that there will be a four-or five-month delay before my constitutent can be told whether he can have an estimate and how much that estimate will be? I thank the right hon. Lady for so kindly staying to hear me, and if she now wishes to leave the Chamber I shall quite understand.

Anyone taking an interest for the first time in the whole problem of urban transport is bound to find that today there is a coinage of words that have general acceptability among people who are in any way involved in transport. Those words have now become so well established that they are almost platitudes. We have such phrases as "no single solution", "the co-ordination of policies", "planning and future development There is no one on either side of the House or throughout transportation who does not use those terms, either in making a decision or in providing the justification he needs for that decision. In that respect, there is a great harmony among those in the industry.

There has never been a more accurate assessment of the general problem of urban transport than that contained in the White Paper published a year ago by the Minister, who summed up the position in paragraph 58: In the long-term the right solution seems likely to be found in the establishment in these areas of single authorities with responsibilities covering land use. highways, traffic and public transport. Clearly, however, a fundamental change of this kind must await the consideration and findings of the Royal Commissions on Local Government. That is a general statement of the problem, and everyone could give credence to it and accept it.

We on this side certainly would do so, but there was a slight hesitancy in our minds, because when we moved to paragraph 59 we found that it stated that, despite what paragraph 58 had said about having to await the findings of the Royal Commissions, and that until then such matters as building, the provision of parking, management, and land utilisation, could be set aside, in terms of public transport they could go ahead at once. My hon. Friends were right in wondering why this particular aspect of the problem should be selected and dealt with in advance of the Reports of the Royal Commissions. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will sympathise with us in at least asking why paragraph 59 should be acceptable, when paragraph 58 argued in favour of a continuing delay.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has made clear, and the Parliamentary Secretary will no doubt repeat, that co-ordination is, to use the sort of vernacular of this part of the century, "the O.K. thing to do", and that it is an essential part of urban transportation. Indeed, it already exists. This is precisely what the traffic commissioners are doing, precisely what the joint organisations of rail and road are doing, and precisely what the local authority coordination committees are doing. They are doing it because there is no dispute about whether or not there is need for co-ordination. We all know that it is necessary and that it is being done. It is merely an administrative detail of whether we extend the power of these co-ordinating bodies or set up such bodies of one kind or another.

Our difficulty is that when the White Paper was published a year ago the outline of the conurbation transport authorities' proposal was extremely vague. It was so vague that it was possible for hon. Members on this side of the House to say that it might contain the germ of a good idea. We did not have the opportunity of debating it for seven months, and after that debate we were no wiser. There were seven months in which we expected details, but we were given no details and even after the debate we had none. I should have thought that the Minister would have some idea about what was in mind and could have given an inkling about what was at the end of this deliberation of which we heard so much.

During that debate the Minister gave an indication of the sort of things which the conurbation transport authorities might do. She did so by drawing attention to the memorandum distributed in December to the four conurbation transport areas which she visited at the end of last year, or the beginning of this year. The memorandum was put to the local authorities as a basis of discussion. Reading the memorandum, as I am sure many hon. Members have done prior to this debate, one realised that, like the original White Paper, it was extraordinarily vague. It was not only extraordinarily vague about intention, but it suggested that it was possible to do more or less anything. It looked over the whole horizon and said that the options were completely open.

I shall quote from the memorandum to show what the options were at the beginning of this year. Dealing with the relationship of the conurbation transport authorities to the bus operators, it showed that three possible formulae could be applied. The first was that there should be total ownership. The conurbation transport authority to take over, manage and operate the bus units within the area covered by the authority. Then we move to the other extreme end which says that after carrying out the necessary reorganisation the C.T.A.s should have planning and supervisory functions rather than an operating rôle. Then we move to the middle of the spectrum which says that the authority should simply own and operate the major bus services which the municipal authorities are doing but leave the private sector to go on competing. It did not matter on which side of the House an hon. Member was, nor what sort of local authority existed, there was something in the proposal for everyone. That was the relationship about which the local authorities were first told. Any sort of detail was left to the Ministry.

Then the local authorities would be interested in the constitution of the C.T.A.s should they be set up. Any local authority could ask "If you are to deal with us and set up a central organisation, how will it be constituted? Where is the power to lie?" The Minister, in the way with which we have become familiar, adopted the attitude which is known as keeping the options open and had a whole range of alternatives for this aspect.

The memorandum said: The central question would appear to be the question of local authority control and finance. At one extreme it would be possible to establish a wholly professional board with no formal links with the local authority, while at the other extreme the authority could he established as a joint board of local authorities. The local authorities could read the memorandum and come to the view that whatever was happening at the moment it would only be a short journey away from what was in the mind of the Minister. That was the background with which we came to this debate.

Listening to some of my hon. Friends speaking about the ports, I envied them the luxury with which they enjoyed in having the McKinsey Report, a detailed survey, an authoritative work and a factual investigation into the whole of the ramifications of the British ports. It was obvious that those who were talking about this aspect had a blueprint with all the facts and figures, and could deal with it, not on a doctrinaire basis, but on the basis of what good management dictated.

They were very luck. Our dilemma in talking about passenger transport authorities is that we have no such blueprint. All we have is a memorandum which has been leaked, although it is a confidential documents, to certain hon. Members. It is true that some of those hon. Members are on this side of the House, but why was the document not made available in the same way as the first memorandum was made available? Why were we not given the opportunity to find out what was going on?

In dealing with the proposed nationalisation of bus services, does the Parliamentary Secretary believe that the bus in itself is some sort of divine animal that should be protected from public question? Or does he accept that buses are merely an instrument to greater efficiency? If he believes that, he will also believe that facts and figures are important. If he is to envisage the development of a dramatic expansion of public ownership, it is reasonable—unless he seeks to protect the bus merely because it is a bus—that those people for whom the services are designed should have access to the discussions going on about their future.

This is the nub of our quarrel. We are not in the luxurious position enjoyed by some of my hon. Friends who discussed the question of the ports, of knowing what is in the mind of the Government. Even more deplorable, the Minister has told us that the little information that has been leaked is already out of date. What is the current situation in regard to the proposed passenger transport authorities? When will it be put before the House? Is it to be put before the House before the Bill is published? If not, are members of the public to have an opportunity to examine the proposal before it arrives as a blueprint, detailed and spelled out, for the Whips to steamroller through the House? Are any of those who are to have the opportunity to use these services also to have an opportunity to question and examine the detailed proposals?

Photo of Mr Peter Bessell Mr Peter Bessell , Bodmin

It appears from the proposals, mysterious as they are, that not only will the public have no say about the powers of the passenger transport authorities, but they may be required, through the local authorities, to pay for nationalisation. Does the hon. Member agree that that is the case?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

It is exactly that. It is also more serious; they will pay for the nationalisation of the bus services and also to keep railways alive so that they will have the responsibility, which the Government are not prepared to take, for closing railway lines.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Is it not even more serious? Now that 90 per cent. of councils are Conservative-controlled, does not my hon. Friend fear that there could be an effort to discredit Conservative-controlled councils by putting this immense burden on the rates, which seems to be the Government's intention?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

My hon. Friend has pointed sharply at one of the grave disadvantages. However, what is sauce for the goose will one day be sauce for the gander. I ask hon. Members opposite to ask themselves whether the immense difficulties with which the Minister will confront my party will not be difficulties which they will regret having foisted on us when they find themselves in opposition.

Not only do we on this side suspect that there will not be public revelation of these details until the Bill is finally signed and sealed and all but delivered. We also understand that, once the designation has been decided upon by the Minister, there is to be no formal public inquiry in the area concerned and that there will be no means of protesting. Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain to the House why this is so? What is in the Minister's mind when she decides that the public shall have no right of access to decisions of this sort?

What has gone wrong with hon. Members opposite that they care so little for the fundamental rights of the individual? Why do they think they were sent here in the first place? Were they sent to act as lackeys for the Government Front Bench? Have they lost the right to ask questions? If this sort of thing had happened when the Conservative Party was in power, hon. Members opposite would have marched from here to their constituencies in protest. So little do they value the basic freedoms when they are evaporated by their own party that they do not have the guts to stand up and fight for the things they once believed to be so dear. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the House why it is not to be told that it can examine the details and why the public, for which the services are presumably designed, is not to have the power and opportunity to examine them before they are imposed.

The proposals themselves have three—[Interruption.] Would the hon. Gentleman care to repeat that remark?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, because I thought that he said something else. He can rest content. The storm is not over. It has only just begun. There will be 12 to 18 months of storm before we have finished with these discussions.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

At least we knew when it was coming and when to expect it. No one knew when to expect these proposals.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order, Only one debater at once.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

Thank you for calling me to order, Mr. Speaker.

These proposals for the P.T.A.s appear to me to have three specific characteristics. First, without any shadow of doubt, as one of the Parliamentary Secretary's hon. Friends admitted on television last night, these are out-and-out nationalisation proposals for the bus industry. They are a vast extension of nationalisation on a scale never envisaged.

I cannot blame the right hon. Lady, because it was well known that this is what she believed in. We all knew that she was an out-and-out Socialist. She is entitled to these views. She is entitled to put these things through the House of Commons. There is no complaint on our part as to that, but let us at least use the right words. Let us understand what she is doing. Let us not beat about the bush. This is nationalisation pure and simple, on a great and extended scale. Let us talk about it in these terms. The first characteristic of these proposals is that they are nationalisation proposals.

The second characteristic is that, in one material respect, they differ substantially and materially from the original proposals contained in the memorandum distributed to local authorities. Although in many ways there were great options for the local authority from which one could take whatever line of action one wanted, in another respect these proposals differ, in that there is one aspect which was never spelled out in that memorandum and over which the local authorities would be entitled to think that they have been deceived—I would hesitate to say deliberately deceived, but deceived for all that. I refer to the question of the control which is supposed to go into the hands of local authorities.

The third characteristic of these proposals is, to me, the saddest. On the matter of the McKinsey Report, anybody who has played any part in managing any organisation of any type—many hon. Members on both sides have done so—knows the need to substantiate a case, not with rhetoric, not with fine phrases, not even with emotion, but, if it is a management problem, simply with facts and figures. That is all. That is the only basis upon which management decisions and the allocation of scarce economic resources can be judged.

I have read through these documents with great care. That does not take very long, because there is nothing much to absorb. There is not one single fact from one end to the other. There are numerous assurances. There are numerous statements of the type, "We will produce more efficient buses. We will produce better and more co-ordinated organisations". But there is not one fact.

We sympathise with the Minister's prejudices. We understand them. They are her prerogative. I do not believe that we should accept that, simply because she has these prejudices, there is some way in which she should be allowed to impose them on the House as though they are divinely inspired. I think that they are not divinely inspired. If the Minister has these prejudices, she owes it to the House to explain them, not with rhetoric, but in facts and in figures. In short, all we ask her to do is to prove her case.

I want to say a few words about each of the three characteristics. There is, first, the power to take over buses and the question of compensation. There seem to be several aspects of the question of compensation. There are, first, the companies which are to be taken over as entities within the P.T.A.s. These, apparently, are to have compensation, but there is no reference to the sort of compensation they will have. They do not know. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what the basis of compensation is to be.

We do not want airy words like "fair", "decent", or "reasonable". We want to know facts and figures. What is the Minister to pay for net assets? What is she to pay for earnings? What is she to pay for goodwill? How is the calculation to be made? How many years purchase are to be taken? This is the sort of information shareholders in these companies are entitled to have and which any responsible member of the public will want to have before the Bill is presented to the House, because it might be a cardinal aspect of the Bill.

On the second aspect of compensation, the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) seemed to think that there was nothing particularly immoral in the guts being taken out of a company by its being deprived of its prize routes from the centre. The hon. Gentleman did not seem to think that it should prejudice a company to have all its prize routes removed and to be left to run the services on the periphery. The document contains an appropriate phrase, in that it refers in this case to "appropriate compensation". What does that mean?

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

What it says—appropriate.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has followed me thus far. I appreciate that "appropriate" means "appropriate". We have reached a certain unanimity across the benches. This is always reassuring. If the hon. Gentleman could for a moment imagine that he was a shareholder or a manager or the owner of one of the bus companies which is to have its best routes taken from it, and if he could further imagine that it was explained to him that he would get "appropriate compensation", he would appreciate that the word would not have quite the magic for him then that it appears to have for him at this moment.

In virtually every business there is a whole range of products. Certain products are more attractive and cross-fertilise others. This does not mean that the other products are not profitable or that they should be discontinued. However, there are centres of profit which are particularly attractive and which stabilise a business and give it the room to breathe and to expand.

If one were to take out of any business of the sort that I am describing these major profit centres, although one might pay a certain number of years' purchase for these particular groups, one would do far more than that. One would put a cancer into the centre of those organisations. I am not making a party point. This is simply a management problem and, therefore, when we talk about appropriate compensation we want to know exactly what it means. This is indeed one of the most sinister aspects of the situation.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I do not want to misunderstand the hon. Gentleman, but is he suggesting that to enable private enterprise to sustain unprofitable country routes they should be given the right to run passenger services through major cities like London, Manchester and Glasgow, in competition with established services?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

I am not suggesting anything of the sort. The traffic commissioners, after all, see that certain unprofitable routes are maintained by cross-fertilising them with profitable routes. But that is irrelevant to the argument. It is relevant to the argument only in this way, that if that sort of thing is going on now and the traffic commissioners can use that power now, why cannot they continue to do it without this elaborate P.T.A. legislation?

The next characteristic is the material way in which the memorandum that was published at the beginning of this year differs from the memorandum which has now been so ostentatiously leaked up and down the land. This is a very regrettable lapse on the Minister's part. As I understand it, the P.T.A.s will con- sist of a board which has two-thirds local authority nominees, depending on the rateable value of the authorities involved, and one-third Ministerial nominees. In the original consultations and in the debate that we had in this House it was made clear to the local authorities that they were going to have control of the C.T.A.s, as they were then, and now the P.T.A.s.

I should like to quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT. This is what the Minister of Transport said: It is because I believe that this integration"— referring to the P.T.A.s— must be geared to local needs that I prefer to give the job to transportation authorities, controlled by local people, rather than to nationalised area boards;"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1967; Vol. 741, c. 1737.] It cannot be spelled out more clearly than that—"controlled by local people".

What happens? They get one-third Ministerial nominees, a chairman who is to be appointed by the Minister, two-thirds local authority nominees every one of whom can be objected to by the Minister and replaced by the Minister if she does not agree with the nominees put forward by the local authorities. Does that statement bear any relationship at all to what the Minister said in February of this year? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can explain how he ties up the two sets of circumstances.

I ask hon. Members opposite to bear this point in mind, because we are in the difficult situation of being an Opposition today. Hon. Members opposite enjoy a substantial majority. But the time will come when there are substantial Labour majorities in these conurbation transport authorities, in the way that there are substantial Conservative majorities at present. Will they take kindly to the sort of difficulties in which our party finds itself, where 70 per cent. of the local authority representatives can find themselves outvoted by 30 per cent.? Is that the sort of situation which their faith in democracy encourages them to believe in? I do not believe they would have let us get away with it during the 13 years when we were in power. There would have been a great baying of the hounds, and I believe that I would have bayed with them.

Times will change, and hon. Members opposite will be lumbered with the situation in which local authorities which they control will not have power because the system was rigged, not by the Front Bench of this side of the House but by the Front Bench opposite.

Photo of Mr James Dempsey Mr James Dempsey , Coatbridge and Airdrie

We had this experience on the hospital boards. The Tory Government dropped the Labour members and replaced them with Tory nominees.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

I should like chapter and verse of that. In any case, we are discussing transport, although I grant that there may be a case that the hon. Member can put forward. However, I know of no case where my party told somebody that they would give him control and then within six months rigged the system so that he did not have control. If the hon. Member knows of a case I would be glad to look at it, but I do not believe he does. I do not believe that the argument he put forward is on the same lines.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

My next point concerns the lack of facts. This is the most sinister part of the whole business. We are suspicious of a case which is pleaded without any facts to support it. I should like to quote the right hon. Lady's memorandum so that she can have some indication of what I have in mind. In paragraph 4(b) of the December memorandum, we read: The day-to-day operation of separate undertakings is not sufficiently co-ordinated to meet the changing needs of the travelling public. The large number of small bus undertakings in some areas creates a need for an excessive amount of joint operation and prevents the economies of scale which in some cases might be achieved from somewhat larger fleets. Those are fine generalisations. Could we have some supporting statistical evidence to justify that statement?

I put down a Question to the Minister asking what economies would be obtained from buying buses on a larger scale. One might assume that this would be one of the organisational advantages that she would expect to get. I got an airy-fairy Answer. No economy would be obtained. Reading through the memorandum which has recently appeared, one finds it all spelled out clearly. The Government have no idea what sort of fare structure will apply in the future. They do not know what the cost structure will be. Yet these are the only tests that matter. This is simply a question of running a transport system efficiently, and we want to be convinced that we shall get efficiency.

My final point is one in which I hope hon. Members opposite will be interested. They will be aware that the P.T.A.s are to have the right to take over the suburban railway lines. As soon as the Government grant begins to tail off, as they will very rapidly, there will be a precept on the rates. Hon. Members might ask, "Who will this hurt?" Will it hurt the elderly and those on low incomes. I know that it is possible to give discriminatory help to old people. But what cannot be done is to give discriminatory help to people living on very low incomes with large families. These people living in the peripheral areas of large towns will find their rates going up, in order to pay for the suburban systems which today are paid for by the taxpayer.

The second effect will be that the local passenger transport authority will look at the bus services running alongside the railway line and they will say, "We do not need two systems. We will close the bus services." Then there will be no choice for the public, and the railway fares will be increased which will further hurt the people living on the edge of these areas. The effect will be to drive more people into motor cars, which will increase the congestion in the city centres as a direct result of this policy advocated by the Government.

Hon. Members must bear carefully in mind which sections of the community will suffer most by this decision to transfer from the national Exchequer on to the local ratepayers and, therefore, on to the backs of every citizen in the area, the cost of keeping open those railway lines.

It is a sad tale, sad because it is irrelevant to the main discussion which we should have been having about urban transportation. Hon. Members opposite have asked why we do not tell them how to run transportation in our towns. It is very flattering that, after so short a time in office, they should seek our advice. In fact, they do not really want our advice. They are merely irritated because we are doing what they did so effectively during the 13 years of Conservative Government. We are in opposition now, and we are entitled to question the people whose job it is, who are responsible for administering our urban transport systems. It it not our responsibility.

These are the Government's schemes, and we must examine them closely. It is not our responsibility to do other than that, though I remind hon. Members opposite that, under the Conservative Government, the Buchanan Report was published, the most discussed but least acted on report in history. More than that, only recently, they have had the Report on Cars in Cities and another Report on the Better Use of Town Roads. There has been all the study necessary. All they need to do now is their homework. Let them read what the authorities say, instead of being mesmerised by what a Left-wing member of the Cabinet says.

We are faced with an abundance of inspired imprecision. That is all that the Minister's plans can be called. We are not permitted to discuss them in detail. We are given no basic information. There is to be no public investigation or check. The political merry-go-round which started in 1947 has taken 20 years to go full circle.

8.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I shall revert to the paper on the reorganisation of the ports. When I first read it, I thought that it was a good document, and the reception given to it by hon. Members opposite tonight confirms me in that view. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) was so carried away by his opposition to the various pronouncements which had been made as to be rather unfair in castigating my right hon. Friend for not giving Glasgow a container port and then, when it was given to him, saying that it was no good and was further cause to damn my right hon. Friend even more.

As a Bristol Member, I hope that my right hon. Friend will have an announcement to make soon about the Portbury scheme. A little earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) said that he considered that the first Portbury scheme had been rightly turned down. I disagree. There were recommendations from various bodies, including the National Ports Council, which said that it was a good scheme. I am certain that, when the Minister did turn down the initial scheme, the decision must have been a very close one. The City of Bristol has put forward certain alternative proposals embodying a much modified scheme. As the argument must have been, on all the evidence, very evenly balanced before, I hope that, when an announcement is made next month, the modified scheme for Portbury will receive my right hon. Friend's approval.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I am sure that the people of Bristol will be glad to know that the hon. Gentleman now favours that much reduced scheme. Will he say what possible benefit it will be to Bristol to have the scheme nationalised, as his right hon. Friend wants?

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I shall come to the question of nationalisation as I develop my argument.

The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) said that, on certain aspects of passenger transport, there had been very little information. He will concede that on the ports side there have been umpteen papers and studies and all the factual information which anyone could want. Why were all these studies done?—because there was a malaise in the industry. All the phrases we use when we talk about modernization—roll-on-roll-off, containerisation, the container revolution—all sound marvellous. But what is the true position in the docks? Why have right hon. and hon. Members opposite waxed so angry about my right hon. Friend's proposals?—because we on this side realise what the basic problem is. It is no good talking about the freedom of the individual. In the port of Bristol, one could have all the choice one wanted. There were 70 stevedoring firms on the Bristol register, many of them with not so much as a bucket and spade or a wheelbarrow to do their work. Some were just names on the register.

Who is to do the work, after all the talk about necessary investment, about roll-on-roll-off and container systems? Will it be 70 stevedoring firms in one port? It is all quite stupid. If we discuss this matter seriously, we must recognise that there is much cause for concern and great need for change. This is where the question of ownership comes in.

In Bristol, the dock is municipally owned. We have a very good port authority. It is said that the municipal docks bring wealth to Bristol. I subscribe to all that. We have a good port authority doing a very good job, but where does the profit go from the great services which the port authority is running and from the wealth which comes into our port? It goes to the motley crowd of stevedoring firms, over 70 of them.

The books of account show that, over the years, nothing from this venture has accrued to the ordinary ratepayers and citizens of Bristol who own the municipal docks. Everything is ploughed back. It is ploughed back in various ways. Many of the functions of the stevedoring firms themselves have been taken over by our good Port of Bristol Authority. But the owners of some of the stevedoring firms are on the council and, what is more, they are on the docks committee itself. Even the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) must concede that vested interests operate in Bristol. Naturally, the system suits some people very well. The profits from the Authority accrue largely to the stevedoring side of the industry, and it is inefficient at that.

We must have one employer in the docks. When we last discussed this matter in Committe, on the Docks and Harbours Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test said, all shades of political view were expressed. My hon. Friend is no arrant nationaliser of everything, but he knows, as I know, that on this side we are absolutely firm in our view on this matter, whatever our varities of political opinion. We were absolutely firm on the Standing Committee, and we are absolutely firm now. What we need in this industry, for the reasons I have given, is public ownership.

I feel this very deeply. When those of us who sat on that Committee discussed the great industry we were con- cerned that we were going only half-way, that from the 70 people registered on the books at Bristol, we should come down to an indeterminate number and we have yet to see how many it will be.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) spoke about the problems resulting from decasualisation.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

The hon. Gentleman has talked about the 70 firms and the members of the Port of Bristol Authority. As he knows, there is no party politics in this aspect of the matter. Was it not a practice that whenever anyone who was a member of the Authority had an interest which was being discussed he not only declared it but refrained from voting? Is not that the common practice?

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I would not know what the practice is, but when I was on various local authorities a person like an estate agent would not sit on the planning committee, because he would also always have to be running out of the chamber. He could not make a decision about plans, because his livelihood would be concerned.

But at present the chairman of the docks committee is also a stevedore, as are many of the committee's members. I do not deny for a moment that they are conducting the business as the hon. Gentleman suggests, but because of their interest I cannot see that they can spend much time in the committee. They must be going out of the door most of the time because of the very nature of the work the committee does, and practically every matter before it must vitally concern their interests as stevedores.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman will concede that during the long years his party was in control there was no question of the stevedores being a majority, because his party held the majority. Even now, interested parties are not in a majority. Does the hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that there should be a port authority which contained no representatives of the shipowners and people with great experience of operating the port?

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

The point I have been trying to make to hon. Members opposite is that when we talk of Bristol being a city that owns its own docks the profit from the prosperity that the docks bring to the community in the way of trade, employment and so on does not return to the ratepayer but goes in large measure to the stevedore concerned. That is my point, and therefore I consider that the proposals are long overdue.

Having said that and said why I think that a change of ownership is necessary, I want to look on the constructive side. What will Bristol's future rôle be on the regional port authorities? I maintain that it will have a large part to play in organising the day-to-day running of the dock undertaking and the workers, and much more control in many respects than it has today. Therefore, we must have a careful look at the local propaganda and see where it comes from and with what motivations.

I want to say something about the existing position and the genuine fears of many people in the industry about the coming changes. The licensing of employers to get the number down to a tolerable minimum was seen as a necessary step to getting one employer on the docks. This is where the rub comes. One employer may be the best to work for at a certain time, and a docker will sign on for him because there may be a certain amount of bonus, perhaps because a dirty cargo is concerned.

But on another occasion another firm becomes the one to work for, if the docker can, and there will be difficulties because of transfers and dockers working 80 per cent. of their time with one firm and 20 per cent. with another. There will be these difficulties both at the inception of the scheme and as things develop.

I do not say this from any sectarian point of view, but for all the reasons I have given it is vital that on any dock undertaking there shall be only one employer in order to get rid of those variations of pay and so that every one knows where he is. To a certain extent we now have in Bristol, in effect, two employers. Men go to various stevedoring firms and a small limited number is employed by the Port of Bristol Authority. They are regular employees and the rest come from the pool and are allocated to different firms. To that extent, when we get individual employers with men permanently allocated to them it will be a step back in some ways, and it is only right to sound warning notes. In some ways I regret that it has not been possible to go straightaway to the situation where there is only one employer.

I should like briefly to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes). He talked about Bristol being in the same region as Wales, and I eagerly awaited what he would say on this issue. He rather sympathised with us for not getting Portbury, and then drifted quickly away from that matter. The whole point is that there must be central planning. It may be thought from time to time that we shall be in direct competition with our Welsh friends, and that we might compete for this or that item of trade.

But there is a whole host of issues on which even today we in the south west should be making representations to the Minister where our interests coincide. We know that it is absolutely axiomatic that the overall policy on development shall be made from the centre and that we need a strong national authority, when we regard the prospects of the Common Market and the undoubted development there has been of docks and harbours along the East Coast.

We in the west should also go together to the Minister and ask where our place is in the container revolution. We should ask, "When you use phrases like 'roll on, roll off' what provision is made for the west? Is it not necessary that we should not put all our eggs in one basket?" Perhaps we shall not get into the Common Market. I view it with great suspicion.

We also have the possibility of being able to transport our goods out from the west by the M4 motorway to London and the M5 to the industrial Midlands. We can go forward with our colleagues from Wales, who also want to make representations on this subject, and say that they have a like interest with Bristol.

We now see the plan emerging, and Bristol will not exist in a vacuum on its own—it will not go its own way. If we are not with Southampton but with the Welsh we must work together, and on a whole range of issues our interests are alike. When we get the regional ports authority we must see that we have a great deal to say, because we are a large port in the neighbourhood.

I have been reasonably brief, but have said some of the things that need saying. I wish to close by repeating to the Minister, "Before you announce your decision on the modified scheme for Portbury, think well. We have had some disappointments in Bristol. It must have been a close argument on the original decision. In fairness and justice, in view of the amount of development taking place on the east coast, the time is overdue for us to be given some development down in Bristol." I commend the revised Portbury scheme to the Minister. I hope that she will think very seriously about it, and I trust that we shall be granted it next month when she makes the announcement.

8.20 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) into the question of Portbury, but in the course of my speech I shall be commenting on a large number of the things that he talked about.

I begin with the extraordinary words uttered by the Minister of Transport earlier today. She said that the facts show that in transport the only policies that work are Socialist ones. I think she will come to regret that statement. It is not true. I think it is true that the only policies which will not work are Socialist ones. There are two policies which could work, Communist ones and capitalist ones, and I very much doubt whether here is anything in between. I believe that the longer the right hon. Lady goes on in her present direction the sooner she will come to Communist ones.

The right hon. Lady got very mixed up—this is purely on the question of the ports—between public ownership, Socialism and the need for more efficiency. The container has, of course, come—it is not a Socialist invention—and we have economies of scale. We have all sorts of Pew techniques and ideas of productivity. But these are not to be confused in the least with public ownership versus private ownership. This is a different argument, and to confuse the two is to mistake the real nature of the decisions that we have to take.

The title of the document about ports, "Ports reorganisation", is a misnomer. It should be "Ports nationalisation". What the right hon. Lady has done is to put forward a plan for putting the ports into public ownership. There is, however, no word of justification in the plan. The right hon. Lady just assumes that because public ownership is mentioned this will automatically cure the difficulties in the ports industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) said with such conviction, we must have the facts and figures. There is the justification for this extraordinary policy?

I agree entirely that there is a need for action. Our ports are seriously under-mechanised. Labour relations and labour productivity are disastrously bad. One has only to visit Rotterdam or Antwerp to see how far behind we are. The risk of losing the entire transatlantic freight trade is very grave. I believe that already our prices are 10 per cent. above those of Rotterdam. We must do something about this.

Why are our ports so bad? One can apportion blame, saying that it is the fault of the bosses or the trade unions. There is nothing in my argument about that. However, what are the basic reasons why they have not worked? I list three. The first is the separation of the employers from their responsibilities as employers of their men. This is the subject of the Devlin Report and the decasualisation measures, which are going forward well and have the Opposition's blessing; indeed, we should like to go further still in this direction.

Secondly, there is the separation of the provision of the capital assets in the ports from the employment of labour. One cannot achieve more productivity by installing more machinery if one does not employ the labour. Similarly one cannot employ labour more efficiently if the provision of equipment is not within one's control.

Thirdly—here I am in some disagreement with some of my hon. Friends—I do not believe that the public trust system or even the municipal system of running docks is a good one, because a public trust or a municipality has not got the sanction of the Parliamentary questioning and Ministerial intervention, nor the commercial motive for making profits. I doubt very much whether this is the right way to conduct an enterprise, although I accept that it is essential to have someone owning the waterway and dredging it and providing many facilities. But that is a different function from operating the docks and quays.

The Government proposal for public ownership is not relevant to those three problems. Like the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), I approach this not in any ideological sense. I am not interested in ownership so much as what leads to the greatest efficiency. The doctrinaire concepts of private ownership or public ownership might confuse our minds if we dwell on them as the main point. If public ownership is the more efficient, then it is right to have it; if private ownership is the more efficient, I am certain that hon. Members opposite would agree that the industry should be in private hands.

Thus, the first point is that we should have provision in the document before us whereby the National Ports Authority could hand back certain ports to private ownership if that were thought to be more efficient. There should be machinery for such a course. Yet all we see in paragraph 16, are the words Further power to take over. It is remarkable that there should be means only for transferring into public ownership but no means for transferring into private ownership. There is no real need for uniformity, because we read that the British Transport Docks Board is to be let off and not included in the scope of the machinery proposed. If the Board can be outside, surely private ports can be as well?

We have to have employers responsible for their labour in the docks. Yet I am amazed to see that there is no conclusion as to whether the dock labour boards will be wound up and whether, indeed, the port authorities will be the employers of labour or not. But this is vital because someone must look after the welfare, pensions, redundancy, amenities and all the other things which make a man content in his job rather than disgruntled and unproductive as is the case at present.

Lord Devlin laid stress on the importance of winding up the dock labour boards in due course, and we must be told by the Government whether they are to be wound up, for this is clearly essential to the increasing productivity of labour. The way to greater efficiency lies through more containerisation and it may well be that the labour force in our docks will have to be halved in the next 10 or 20 years.

What worries me about the proposal for public ownership is that all the indications from other publicly-owned under-takings are that where there is public ownership the labour force tends to grow relative to what is needed rather than to diminish. The extraordinary thing is that since 20th July—the date of the great squeeze—the number employed in the gas, electricity and water industries has increased by 4,000, whereas the number in manufacturing industries has decreased by 339,000.

How can it be that in a period of economic squeeze and unemployment the nationalised industries can afford to take on more men? Or is it simply that private manufacturing industries have increased their productivity and efficiency whereas public industries have done the reverse? That question needs to be answered.

If one goes on to study the document, it says: It will also enable further advances to be made in the improvement of conditions for workers in the industry. There is no mention of productivity, so I presume it means that the dock workers will have a bigger slice of the cake and will be allowed to take a greater amount of our port management. One sees the dangers of this proposal. The example of the railways is not helpful, where the N.U.R. appears to wish to run the railways. Government of the N.U.R. by the N.U.R. and for the N.U.R. seems to be its object.

We have to be clear about the danger of the unions concerned trying to take over the running of this industry. It is all on the surface. They are saying now, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have been saying, that they want worker participation—

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I want to explode that one. There is a difference between worker consultation and worker participation.

The document says: A statutory obligation will be placed on the R.P.A.s to consult with the unions with a view to establishing and maintaining machinery for negotiation and regular consultation and discussion at all levels. That is fine. I go along with that. However, it goes on: In addition, provision will be made for worker Participation. These are two totally different matters, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have been fooled with regard to the Iron and Steel Act by thinking that they have worker participation. What they have got is worker consultation, and the Minister of Power has been careful to make sure that he will only have on the boards of his steel companies workers who are divorced from active responsibility for the men whom they represent. He is right, because the idea of a union taking over the management of an industry can only result in that industry being run, not as an efficient undertaking, but as a haven of rest for those who work in it.

We have had a sluggish growth rate of 1 per cent. in the Government's three miserable years of office, and we shall have to invent a new phrase like "economic shrinkage" to make up the loss which will occur if this idea catches on. What is needed is more productivity. In Antwerp and Rotterdam there is 100 per cent. shift working, no restrictive practices and complete co-operation. However, in the whole paper there is no mention of the need to achieve these sorts of improvements. The only way in which they will be achieved is by having good, effective management being forced to respond to real financial and economic pressures, which are not mentioned in the document.

Now I come to the organisation of the industry, which is vital. It cannot be improved by killing competition. The proposals before us are for complete centralisation, and Ministerial control is substituted for the little competition and rivalry which is left. Is it intended that the industry should be run by the Minister of Transport? She is already running the railways, and it is clear that she intends to run every single undertaking within her ambit. I do not criticise her personally, but she is not trained as a manager and nor will her successor be. It is wrong for a Minister of the Crown to run any industry. It is necessary to hire managers who have experience in running things to run the docks industry, and it is for this reason that I want a clear statement from the Government that they have no intention of trying to run our ports.

In this document we read the astonishing statement that National Port Authority will have effective control of policy on such matters as finance, planning, investment, revenue targets, pricing, research, training and key appointments … I want to know what the regional port authorities will do. There can be no autonomy left after that range has been covered. It seems that the only thing left to them is to design the uniforms of the officials who will be running the R.P.A.s, and it is clear that this industry is going to be run as a centralised bureaucratic structure, without any decentralisation, without any competition.

The shippers have made it clear that they are entirely against this. There should be no attempt at centralised control, over and above that already exercised jointly through the National Ports Council and the Government. This is what they say, but it seems to me that there are much more basic reasons why this is a mistake.

If there are several independent units, this, first of all, keeps open several different options. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been arguing about whether Portbury should be in Bristol or somewhere else, whether the Portbury scheme should have been agreed to or not. I do not know, they do not know, nobody knows, but quite often by allowing two schemes to develop one backs the right horse among the two. If someone puts all his eggs in one basket, and it happens to be the wrong basket, he loses all his eggs. I believe that in technical improvements, whether it be one form of container berth, or a roll-on, roll-off berth, or whatever it it, there is great advantage in allowing different people to put different systems into practice. If a rigid requirement is imposed by the Ministry of Transport that all container berths shall be of a certain type or design, one loses the options which are available.

The second reason is the delay and the time it takes for schemes to go to the top, be approved, and get back to the local people. But the third reason is that we will not attract people at the local level who will have the knowledge, the skill, and the drive which is necessary. We will attract only people who will be mere rubber stamps not able to put into effect the sort of policies which we need. I believe that this idea of central control of our ports is one more fatal nail which will do great damage to the economic coffin of this country.

I do not give two figs for the eight R.P.A.s. It is wishful thinking to dream up these regions. It means no more than the scribbling on the paper which it is. It is like a would-be dictator of a new African country planning his ministerial team, setting up boards to deal with this, that, and the other, and waking up in the morning to find that there is nothing at all. All this dreaming-up of regional boards gets us nowhere. What is needed is some way of bringing to this industry a real stimulus to compete, to modernise itself, to kick it into the twentieth century, using all the techniques and skills of management and mechanisation which are at our disposal.

When we come to denationalise the docks industry, if it gets as far as being nationalised, I hope that we will keep together the employment of labour and the instalment of capital equipment. These should be within the same unit. Secondly, we must have all sorts of responsibilities diversified throughout the country. We must bring the docks system back into its constituent units. There is no argument of economy of scale other than that one port must be an entity, and should not be cut into two, but we must find means of bringing back that spirit of rivalry, that responsibility for ensuring efficiency, which forces people to employ the best managers, which in turn forces the managers to make the fullest use of men and equipment. It is along these lines that the solution to our problem lies, and not along the lines of doctrinaire nineteenth century outright nationalisation. I hope that my hon. Friends will vote for the Motion, because in my opinion the proposed legislation is fundamentally against the best interests of the country.

8.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

First, I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me my normal Tuesday night spot just before nine o'clock. I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker). I always listen carefully to his speeches, because for about 19 years of my life I lived just outside Worcester. My father is still one of the engine drivers who works at the local engine sheds that the hon. Member would like to close down. We have heard that the hon. Member has about 18 study groups working under his guidance to produce something on transport policy for the party opposite.

I listened especially carefully tonight, because the hon. Member should be able to talk with quite a little experience about the transport problems of Worcester. Ever since the war he has had a big transport headache right in the middle of his constituency, namely, a bus company which is supposed to provide a public transport service in the area. I shall refer to that later. I only say now that if this is all that these 18 study groups can produce up till now, if they think that they will produce a policy before the next General Election they are going to have some hard work to do.

Reference has been made to conurbation transport authorities. Everywhere we look at the moment we see that the system that was set up in the 1930s, especially under the 1930 Road Traffic Act, seems to have ground to a halt. We now have a system where every time a bus company increases its fares people flock to their cars. Because they use their cars congestion increases, bus services slow down, the bus companies lose more revenue and have to increase their fares again. This vicious circle has been perpetuated, and in certain parts of the country it has reached the stage where, if a company increases its fares, and the elasticity of demand is unity—to use a technical term—the number of passengers decreases correspondingly and total revenue does not increase. The only solution is to break the vicious circle somewhere, and this is what the proposed legislation should do.

I regard the proposals for passenger transport authorities as one part of a whole series of wider measures designed to deal with the problem of transport in the urban areas. It is not merely a question of implementing the Buchanan Report. How I wish the Buchanan Report had mentioned the word "cost". It is not merely a matter of implementing that Report; it is a matter of doing something about the whole problem of road, rail, public and private transport in our major cities. The proposed legislation will seek to do that.

In the existing system we do not see the kind of competitive position to which one or two hon. Members opposite have referred. The whole purpose of the legislation of the 1930s was to prevent competition in the operation of our road passenger transport services. The purpose of the 1930 Road Traffic Act was to set up companies which, over a wide area, were the sole providers of transport, without fear of competition from new entrants to the industry because those new entrants would have to go before the traffic commissioners and would not be granted licences.

In the present situation large companies dominate their territories without any competition. At the same time, we cannot get at these companies until they come before the traffic commissioners, and the procedure in that connection is not very effective. The situation has now developed when there has to be cross-subsidisation. Certain companies with only 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. of their total mileage that pays have to use that 20 or 30 per cent. to cross-subsidise the rest of the mileage that does not pay.

The Midland Red Bus Company, which is half owned by the Government, is in this case. It has about 8,000 employees and claims to run services for about 300 million passengers a year. Because it is so large in its area, only 30 per cent. of its mileage pays and it has to rely on that to subsidise the 70 per cent. in the conurbations and outside which does not. This company earns a lower rate of return than any in its group and lower, on average, than most others in the industry. Instead of campaigning against nationalisation, surely it should accept that it would be the most acceptable thing for the Midland Red.

The company and its general manager should not campaign about nationalisa- tion stamping out these services, because without nationalisation of such companies these services will have to be discontinued, as the 30 per cent. can no longer pay for the 70 per cent. The truth is exactly the opposite of the case being made by our friends in the company—

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the nationalised concern should continue to carry a much greater amount of uneconomic services than the present Midland Red? Surely the result would be mounting subsidies for the taxpayer? How would he deal with that?

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

I said that the company's financial position was becoming serious and that something would have to be done.

If we carry on like this, with increasing subsidisation, fares in certain areas will have to rise even more to pay for uneconomic services. Whenever this company and others put up their fares, the number of passengers will fall off correspondingly, leaving their revenue constant. Many bus companies are in this situation. The company runs a cunning campaign, claiming on stickers on its buses that it does not contribute to the Passenger Vehicle Operators Association. It is getting so much publicity that it seems as if it does contibute to the T.V.O.A. and it must accept that its stickers are on buses in which the Government have a 50 per cent. stake.

Railway lines have also been closed down without reference to the social cost. A study of social cost benefit would have been a good idea. A line in my constituency between Nuneaton, Coventry and Leamington had a good case for being kept open on this basis, but, because the previous Administration's only criterion was pure profit, it was closed and people are 15 or 20 minutes late for work every morning because they use the alternative service of the Midland Red.

Hon. Members opposite have said that nationalisation would interfere with private enterprise and that companies would be taken over without compensation, but, including the territorial companies, those of the municipalities and the independent operators, there are about 80,000 buses in the company, of which about 60,000 are either entirely or half owned by the Transport Holding Company, or they are part of municipal bus fleets. Yet we have been told today in strong terms that the Government are proposing to carry out the wholesale nationalisation of road passenger transport. At least one of the 18 study groups which is said to be working in the Conservative Central Office ought to have found out about this.

Apart from one or two jingles about the Selective Employment Tax and the fuel tax, we have not heard an alternative solution today from the Conservative Party. We have heard mumblings about giving this and that back and about congestion and the Buchanan Report, but nothing to deal with the kind of situation to which I referred earlier which faces the people in our cities at this moment. Do hon. Members opposite think that we should go back to competition? If so, they are wrong. Do they think that we can run a public passenger transport service on the lines that existed before the Road Traffic Act, 1930, when pirate buses would drive up to a bus station and pick up someone else's passengers, and then nip down the road before the authorised operator arrived? That is what competition meant—and if that is what the Conservative Party mean, they should say so.

In the conurbations we already have chaos. In the Birmingham conurbation there is the Birmingham Corporation transport service, the Walsall Corporation transport service and the West Bromwich Corporation transport service—and, in addition, Wolverhampton provides its transport services. Somewhere between all these we have the Midland Red. We are reaching the stage at which even the bus companies realise that by themselves they are not big enough to operate the services, and they are having to introduce joint operations. They are having to introduce by themselves the very thing that is envisaged in the proposed legislation.

We have been told that the ratepayers will have to pay for the national transport deficit. I have news for the Conservative Central Office. For a long time local authorities have been empowered to raise rates to subsidise their transport departments, and most of them already have to do so. It is not a matter of ratepayers in future having to put their hands in their pockets to bail out the corporation transport authorities. Most of them have to do it already, because of the crazy economics to which I have referred several times.

We already have co-ordination and payment by the ratepayers. At the same time we still have the crazy mixed-up situation where in the bigger conurbations some of the municipal undertakings compete against each other. The public are losing out every time, congestion is increasing and railway lines are being closed. Unless we take everything under one umbrella we shall get the kind of situation which they had in San Francisco and Los Angeles all over again, because we shall find in the 1990s or the next century that we have to rebuild the railway lines and to start the bus services all over again. I would much rather see £50 million spent on improving public transport facilities now than £100 million or £200 million have to be spent a couple of decades from now.

This is the policy envisaged by the proposed legislation. I have questions to ask about it. I want to know how the rural bus services will be provided for and how we shall pay for services which are unremunerative now and which will still be unremunerative under the proposed legislation. By and large, unless we get the municipalities, territorial companies and all the other services together, we shall find ourselves in chaos and confusion instead of having an integrated working of the whole system.

Much has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite about threats to nationalise road haulage undertakings. When I think of some of the companies which have been voluntarily acquired by the Transport Holding Company I cannot understand why they talk of threats. George Reid and James Express Carriers were not acquired by threat but completely voluntarily, and that is envisaged by the proposed legislation.

In any event, hon. Gentlemen opposite must come clean when they speak about the nationalisation of the road haulage industry. When one considers what happened in 1953, it is obvious that the Conservative Party never intended to completely denationalise British Road Services. Even after the passing of the 1953 Act hon. Gentlemen opposite went on to improve some of the B.R.S. depot facilities. They acquired the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company in 1954 to provide the ferry services which B.R.S. now operates. When they talk about competition in road haulage they must come clean.

So far, the record of hon. Gentlemen opposite is not one of competition but of convenience. I am the first to admit that there may be a place—a small one—for the private sector in road haulage. I could quote some good examples of co-operation in the private road haulage sector. Consider the amount of fruit and vegetables shifted out of the Vale of Evesham every night. I wish that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) were here to hear me say that.

I have done a fair amount of long distance transport driving. In my experience, any flexibility that may exist in the private sector exists at the expense of the driver. It is the driver who must work 120 hours a week, who must earn it on tip money and who is called out of bed at two o'clock in the morning and told, "Get down the road to Manchester". Contrast that with B.R.S., in which no driver gets paid for more than 10 hours' work, anyway.

If we are to have flexibility in the private sector, it must come as a result of that sector organising its activities properly and not because the driver is flexible. I hope that, as a result of this policy of acquiring sectors of the industry voluntarily, we will afford scope for the operation of a small private sector which will be flexible.

I must conclude my remarks because I see that my usual time to sit down is approaching. As a long distance driver, I went to the docks on a number of occasions. I often went to Southampton. I would arrive at six o'clock Monday morning and, if I had not managed to tip the chap at the front of the queue to take off my load, I might still have been there the following Thursday morning. Something must be done about the docks. Hon. Members need only go to places like Merseyside and the P.L.A. to see lorries queueing up, often having to wait for hours if not days before unloading. It is not an exciting spectacle.

Can anyone wonder why restrictive practices come about? Consider, for example, the way in which drivers must queue up to sell their labour, or otherwise rely on their measly fall-back pay of £10 a week. For me, the nationalisation of the docks will improve matters from the workers' point of view. There must be better amenities and de-casualisation. Decent port facilities must be provided. It is up to us to provide them because, under the set-up that has existed so far, they have not been provided and, unless changes are made, they will never be provided.

No constructive alternatives have been put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite for improving the docks. We have been trying to discern a transport policy in their remarks, but they would prefer to leave things as they are. They want to see lorry drivers queuing from six o'clock on Monday morning until the following Thursday. Unless we do something about the docks the present set-up will continue to bedevil improvement.

The McKinsey Report—and I hope that hon. Members opposite will try to find time to read it; it will not take too long, and it has plenty of pictures—envisaged that with container ships only four ports will be needed to serve the country. We cannot therefore talk of competition, or play off one port against another. The work must be planned. We shall have neither the room nor the money for a whole series of ports round the country with container berths and roll-on roll-off facilities. The mistake of playing off one port against another was made on the West coast of America.

If we are to get the container berths, the unit trains and effective transfer from road to rail and vice versa, we must work on an integrated centralised basis. That is what this debate should have been about. Primarily, it is not about whether we should nationalise or denationalise but about improving the nation's transport services. That is what we on this side have been trying to talk about. This is what is envisaged in the prospective legislation, and it is what I shall vote for tonight. I hope that hon. Members opposite will treat the matter with the same kind of seriousness.

9.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

It is a depressing commentary on both the Government and our economic prospects that at a time when sterling has been under pressure for a thousand days the Ministry of Transport, whose task it is to create conditions for the improvement of the distribution of goods and freight—which represents, in fact, 10 per cent. of the gross national product—can envisage in two Bills during the next two years only a reshuffling of the constitution of those methods of transport. There is no proof in any of the documents that have come to me, or in the facts referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) that anything positive will he done to improve the movement of goods, freight or people.

That improvement is what we on this side have been seeking, and successive Ministers of Transport, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), made a great deal of effort to accelerate movement. My right hon. Friend commissioned reports whilst at the same time himself acting. We had the Rochdale Report, which has been referred to in this debate, and the Buchanan Report, which has also been referred to. The Jack Report on rural transport has been implemented. On a great deal of that policy we stand firm at present, but it is not for us today to put forward policy.

Our job is to examine the operation of Government policy. That is the business of Parliament. It is particularly the Opposition's job. Government back benchers, too, must be reminded that their job is to examine the Executive and its functions and discover how the Government are carrying out those functions.

Our ports are still handling at least 90 per cent. of our exports, and we now face the challenge and predicament presented by the international terminals that are being created on the Continent. There is Europoort at Rotterdam—I am glad to see the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) nodding agreement, because he knows that Rotterdam is a civic port. I believe that the ports of Antwerp and Hamburg are also civic ports.

Those ports with their deep water facilities, with their facilities for handling bulk cargoes and container cargoes, built up often by a local authority with devoted and with civic pride and with an understanding of the trade which goes through those ports, have built up such a threat to our trade that we are faced with a challenge which is not simply a trading challenge because with the development of the port goes development of investment within the area of the port, development of the moving of merchandise, and the financing of bills of trade which go with it. If we lose the long sea trade into the European ports, we shall lose many of these methods of invisible earnings which have made this country great and prosperous in the past and the present.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) said, we should be reduced simply to the rôle of fetching and carrying our own domestic requirements. The Minister's answer to this is simply to meddle with the structure of our transport industry, give it a central control and impose a new bureaucracy upon it, forgetting that the greatest developments and progress in our ports have been of a civic nature. I am not saying that this is the only method of improving the industry, but there is nothing to commend nationalisation of the ports system.

What we should have is investment plans for our ports. We now know that there will be uncertainty for the next four years because that will be the vesting date. Who will invest in facilities for the ports if they know that they will not be able to operate them at the end of the day? We are held up by this nautical Nero who, because of her political dogmas, is determined that we should not proceed with this necessary investment.

The same is true of the National Freight Authority. Who wants it? What good will it do—this was ably brought out by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith)—in the speeding of goods and the cheapening of the movement of goods? Do the hauliers want it? In fairness, the Minister said that she does not propose to nationalise the road haulage industry. She goes to America and makes statements there, so she will agree with the statement made by the Prime Minister on 3rd April, 1963, in Washington: We shall rebuild this integrated system, not so much on the basis of buying off every lorry, every truck, every little back-street garage that has got four or five broken-down lorries together with the goodwill and pay enormous sums to them as we did last time, but on the basis of taking the lid off the already nationalised British Road Services. This is what we are seeing today. We are seeing the National Freight Authority to be imposed by Act of Parliament.

We have had the promise by the Minister today of a new licensing system. There are so many leaks that this should be called the Sieve Ministry. I understand from the inspired leaks which come my way that there will be increased and restrictive licensing for any long-distance haulage and relative freedom for the short-haul. What then will be the competition between the long-distance haulier and the new freight authority? There will be no fair competition. The freight operator will be squeezed out of business into bankruptcy. The bankruptcy rate in this industry is very high indeed. This will not be good for the new freight authority, nor for the railways. They do not want it.

The right hon. Lady seems to have heard today of movement by container for the first time. Moving from a container directly on to a ship and on to the customer's country is a new invention. How is that to help the railways if it is known that the railways will have it taken away from them? There has been much talk in practically every transport debate about morale on the railways because of the continuing losses. How will these proposals improve the railway's chances of meeting their financial objective and of doing something progressive and of bringing back their self-respect, if all that is to be allowed to them is to keep the rump of their minerals traffic? What good will it do.

Hon Members opposite ask what policy we are presenting. We are examining this policy and asking what good will it do. What will it do to produce a better service? What will it do to reduce charges? What will it do to reduce the load on the overburdened taxpayer? This is some one we should refer to occasionally, even if only in passing, when discussing this subject.

A little of the light of day has been cast upon the proposal in relation to buses. We have had proposals which have been confidential until today. I understand that now, after they have been published in various newspapers, and after there have been various leaks from the Ministry, at last they are to be put into the Library so that all hon. Members can see them. That is a step forward. We also understand, as the result of the expert probing of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), that some of these proposals are to be taken back. So we are in an even greater state of query about the whole situation.

Are we to go back, not only in concept, but in technique of development as well, to the 1947 Act? That Act was in spirit brought up by the Minister in the form, not necessarily on this occasion of area schemes as a form of covert nationalisation, but of the conurbation transport authority and now the passenger transport authority. There was in the 1947 Act the first stage of preliminary consultation, with both the municipalities and the operators. As I understand it, consultation is now going on. We want to know how this consultation is proceeding.

The next stages under the 1947 Act were the publication of a scheme, then a public local inquiry, and then the special Parliamentary procedures. We want to know to what extent the Minister proposes to follow this procedure. What consultation is she to have? Will it be adequate consultation? Will it get down to the business which my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) explained so well to the House? I am not satisfied that it will.

Answering a supplementary question put by myself, the Minister said this last week: Adequate consultation consists both in detailed discussion by my officials with the people concerned and in my receiving personally any representations which appropriate organisations wish to make to me."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 800.] I want to ask about the elaborate and "detailed discussion" and how the personal representations will take place. In this case there is to be no formal procedure for the hearing of objections if the property of individuals—that is, shareholders—is to be expropriated without adequate consultation. I remind hon. Members opposite that they are representatives of taxpayers and of ratepayers, who will be adversely affected by this legislation, and that it will be their duty to search their consciencies and to search the Minister in the years that lie ahead to ensure that there is adequate compensation for those that returned them to the House.

We know that it is vital that we probe these matters now, because we have the Minister's own word for it that this matter is not negotiable. She proposes to bulldoze the thing through. We on this side have initiated this debate so that the House and the country can have a preliminary view of it and the people can be alerted to what is happening to their assets.

Every citizen in this country, in one way or another, will be disappropriated by the legislation that is coming forward. We are told that it is not negotiable. The Minister laughingly said that, no doubt with her fine sense of democracy. There is no formal procedure for objection. My hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock explored this matter very thoroughly.

As there is no method for objection, we want to object now. We want the country alerted now. We shall alert the country again on the Second Reading, and we shall continue during the debate in Standing Committee to improve this Bill so that the people get justice and democracy. [Interruption.] I would refer to the remarks of Mr. John Davies, the Director-General of the C.B.I., in the Sir George Earle memorial lecture on 13th December last year, entitled "Industry and Government". Did the hon. Member wish to interrupt?

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I said that the hon. Gentleman sounds as if he belongs to this side of the House.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

One day the hon. Member will be on my side of the House—

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

The hon. Member should not believe that.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

—or perhaps he will lose his seat. We shall be very sorry to lose him if he does.

Mr. Davies, with his great experience, talks about a veritable maze of consultative groupings conceived with the dual objective of genuinely acquiring knowledge of the workings of industry on the one side and, on the other, of quietening fears that it may be preparing to act in an arbitrary or impulsive manner. He says: There is something of the spider and fly encounter"— I think this is particularly apposite in this case— implicit in Government/Industry consultation even when carried out with all the niceties of administrative consideration. It is a process that risks making enemies rather than friends. I come to the point of compensation. I want facts from the Parliamentary Secretary. I want to know how are the terms of compensation to be arrived at. Is there to be an independent valuation? On what basis are the assets to be valued? On how many years' earnings are they to be valued? Is it to be on the basis of the 1947 Act, namely, the floating debt? I admit that under the 1947 Act there was a sum of £2½ million extra in reserve, over and above the floating debt, but if the Ministry confines itself entirely to the floating debt a tremendous injustice will be done.

I would particularly alert anybody from Birmingham to the great injustice that will be done because Birmingham Corporation transport, with assets valued at £10 million, has no floating debt, and if the undertaking is nationalised or taken over on the basis of the floating debt, there will be no compensation to the ratepayers of Birmingham.

Some time ago Alderman Watton of Birmingham was on record as saying that it did not worry him a bit if the Birmingham ratepayers did not get a penny compensation. I should think he is probably changing his views about that now. If he is not, the ratepayers of Birmingham will probably want to change him. This is a matter of principle, on which Councillor Sissling of Bradford said that in Bradford they viewed with great alarm the prospect of a debt-free undertaking being appropriated without any compensation to the city. If this practice, the 1947 practice, is followed, great injustice will be done to both those cities and the many other undertakings which stand to be taken over by the P.T.A.s under the coming legislation.

Who is to pay the compensation? Will it be the Treasury? If so, the Treasury will insist on control, and then there will be even greater control than has been envisaged so far. In three years, the local authorities or the conurbation transport authorities will be able to precept the local authorities within their area for the rates. In the meantime, they will receive assistance from the Treasury. But three years is not a long time. The ratepayer will have been expropriated of his property and, more than that, in many places little versions of the London Transport Board will have been set up. What a nightmare. In 1964, London Transport broke even. Last year, it had a deficit of £5·6 million. This year it is running to £7·5 million. If we are to have this sort of burden throughout our big cities, with the ratepayers expropriated of their property, the hue and cry will be quick to arise.

We want to know about compensation and about the other consequent detail, as the Minister of Transport engagingly calls it. It is not consequent detail. It is a matter of great principle, a matter of compensation, a matter of assistance to the ratepayers, and it is also a constitutional matter of central control. If anyone imagines that the transport services will be run by the local authorities and conurbations concerned, by these great and proud cities, he will be quickly disillusioned. Not only does the financial pattern ensure control from the centre. The constitutional basis ensures it also.

There are to be specific grants for major capital projects. The Minister of Transport will approve the terms, will supervise the detailed financial agreements, and will provide infrastructure grants. All this means central control. The piper pays the tune in any country, but if the British Treasury has a say in what is going on, there is central control with a vengeance.

Now, the composition of the boards of the authorities. The Minister has the right to refuse the appointment of any person to the board if he be a person unsuitable in her eyes. That is the most sweeping abrogation of local control that there could possibly be. It is an utter veto on any member not pleasing to this Minister. Further than that one could not go. Moreover, in such a case, the Minister may act by default and appoint her own nominee.

The House has been told these things two or three times, but I want the country quickly to know. I want these cities quickly to know, and other places away from the cities as well. This is to be the prototype to be spread throughout the country. One-third of the membership of every board will be appointed directly by the Minister. They are called independent members of the board. The Minister's sense of humour fills me with delight. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead rightly said, not only does she have the authority and control to which I have already referred, but she has the right also, of her own nomination, to appoint the chairman, and he must have her approval before he appoints the chief executive. This is the situation as we see it. We are told by the Minister tonight that the document is no longer firm but only contains various proposals. Let us hope that the debate has caused them to be taken back, because the document is not anything to improve local transport. It would simply increase an ambitious Minister's powers.

On the subject of consultation, we know that she has gone around to various cities and adopted a skilful technique—she is a very skilful person. She pledges the local authorities to complete confidentiality and then has a Press conference. She holds a private meeting with the Press, and the next day the members of the local authority who have been talking to her in confidentiality, they think, see her name and proposals all over the papers. They become a little fed up with this and with the inspired leaks and begin having their own Press conferences. They become a little disillusioned by what is going on.

I remind the Minister that it may be very well for her to desire to centralise from Whitehall in the case of both the docks and local transport undertakings. That might be fine, but there is a great reaction against centralism in this country at present. She will know from the local election returns and the by-election returns that there is a great movement towards national and regional parties. Those people will not take kindly to having their local undertakings centralised on Whitehall. A large part of their day is spent on the local buses, going to work and returning home.

Therefore, we want to know what there is in any of the proposals for the docks, the buses and the movement of freight which the Minister will introduce in two Bills in the next two years to give better service, better timekeeping, better consideration for the people who use them, better labour relations, and, in the case of rural transport, maintaining an adequate service.

The Minister's function is to create the conditions in which free industry, whether locally or privately controlled, creates the best work it can to give a service to the public—in the case of the docks creating a faster turn-round to give an efficient service to the ship while it is in harbour and cheaper dues, and getting the ship away fully loaded as quickly as possible in competition with the foreigner. I see nothing in her proposals to achieve these objects.

In the case of the freight authority, what we require is a faster, cheaper and more reliable service, and I see nothing in the proposals that will achieve it. There is nothing in the proposals for the buses to give a faster, cheaper, more reliable service, taking the needs of the locality into account. In each of these cases there is simply a blatant grab by an ambitious Minister and, as someone else said on the subject of public ownership and Clause 4, we will fight, fight and fight again.

9.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

As has been usual in debates on transport matters, a large number of detailed and local points has been raised by those who have cared to attend the debate, and it is not possible to cover them all in winding up. But I give the assurance, which I think we have always managed to fulfil, that we shall not only take note of all these points but shall reply to hon. Members on both sides in due course on the particular questions they raised.

I have much sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) who, I think, said that he was puzzled as to why we were having a debate on this Motion today, the Motion being about the threat of further nationalisation of bus operators, road hauliers and the ports and docks industries. After all, this is an important Supply day in the hands of the Opposition towards the end of the Session, a wonderful opportunity to make a survey of the real problems confronting the people. It was a very advantageous chance for the Opposition to put forward a constructive contribution of alternative policies to those being advanced by Her Majesty's Government. But what have we found? The debate was selected by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) supported by his 18 sub-committees, and he selected this totally negative, wholly dogmatic and utterly sterile Motion which simply and solely invites the House to oppose nationalisation.

Hon. Members opposite who have dealt with the subject of the Motion have advanced the proposition that there are no virtues in national ownership at all, no advantages to be gained from national planning, and nothing of benefit to the community by the national integration of transport services. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huck-field) said, one might have imagined that hon. Gentlemen opposite would have totally extinguished nationalisation in the transport industries and services when they had the power.

After all, it was hon. Gentlemen opposite who were responsible for the present structure of British Railways, British Road Services—the part that they could not sell—and the British Transport Docks Board, which some of them are so fond of knocking on every occasion possible. It was the Conservative Government who, by a series of Acts culminating in the 1962 Act, were responsible for this state of affairs.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that when one breaks eggs it is not easy to put them back in their shells.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends either had not the competence or had not the guts to implement the Motion which they bring forward to the House today when they had the power, if they really believed in it, to denationalise the transport industries and services. My right hon. Friend inherited this state of affairs of the mixed economy of national ownership, municipal ownership and private ownership in the transport industries and services, but in the disintegrated way which the Tories created by means of the 1962 Act. My right hon. Friend is engaged in trying to produce integration where they deliberately disintegrated and co-ordination where they introduced conflict, but, above all—this is something which some hon. Gentlemen opposite apparently cannot understand—to introduce into transport policy the concept of social benefit and responsibility.

I turn immediately to the question of the passenger transport authorities and the comments of the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). Over a wide field the arguments put forward by the Opposition have been answered by my hon. Friends the Members for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and for Nuneaton. Let me set out again clearly the principle as enunciated by my right hon. Friend.

My right hon. Friend has declared for some time that it is her policy to maintain and revive public transport in the country and especially in the towns. This is a function which must be combined with the exercise of traffic control and the development of traffic management, which is in the hands of the principal local authorities, and it is, therefore, indispensable, if we are to cope with the motor car revolution—the spread of car ownership—and are to enable public transport to move and fulfil its basic function and to get co-ordination between skilful traffic management and bus and train operations, to bring under one single authority the organisation of passenger public transport. That is the principle on which my right hon. Friend is working.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

Is the hon. Gentleman now describing the passenger transport authority as it is today in the latest memorandum, or as it was in the memorandum six months ago?

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

In his speech, the hon. Gentleman began by saying that he was not challenging the idea of a single authority able to exercise supervision over land use, traffic control and public transport operations, and so on. But he went on to object to my right hon. Friend taking the steps needed to bring into being in advance of local government reorganisation the machinery to do it. My right hon. Friend has answered this point on several occasions.

In our view, we cannot wait until we get the reorganisation of local government to set up this kind of authority, and that is precisely why my right hon. Friend is taking the initiative to consult the local authorities and others on how, under broad local authority control, public passenger transport authorities can be set up.

I appreciate that hon. Members opposite are entitled to have their fun about the leakage of documents, including those which they or their associates have leaked themselves and which have appeared in anti-Government newspapers and magazines. But I ask them whether they consider that my right hon. Friend should carry on consultations on these matters or not. If they think that such consultations should be carried on, and if they think that, in them, she should take account of the views of the local authorities, the local authority associations, the operators' associations and others, then they will appreciate that it is necessary for those consultations to be carried on in an atmosphere of trust and that, in such circumstances, it is not possible for public argument to be carried on about every detail and every matter. Arguments have been adduced in the debate based on various documents which are now superseded and hon. Members will not expect me, since these consultations are going on and since my right hon. Friend takes them seriously, to answer the detailed points that they have raised.

Another peculiarity of the hon. Member for Worcester in having initiated the debate is that he knows very well that my right hon. Friend has promised a White Paper on this subject, when the consultations have been completed, in which all these matters will be set out. He knows perfectly well that legislation is required to carry these aims into effect and that, therefore, all hon. Members will have a full opportunity to debate the merits and demerits of these proposals again when the consultations have been completed.

But the hon. Gentleman would not expect my right hon. Friend, when she is engaged in such consultations and in such a relationship with the local authorities, to give off-the-cuff answers to a whole series of detailed questions which are precisely the subject of the conversations she is carrying on.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the publication of the White Paper, if it comes in Parliamentary time, will be 28th October, and that the right hon. Lady has promised the Second Reading of the Bill for November? Are we to have a debate on the White Paper before the Bill is published?

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

We shall have to see about that. As far as I know, no one has previously raised this question, and no one has said not. I would have thought that hon. Members would first of all wish to consider the White Paper. When my right hon. Friend has finalised a policy and set out her proposals, in the knowledge that they will be followed by legislative proposals, it will clearly be a matter for discussion at that stage as to how the views of the House can be expressed.

I have reiterated tonight the general principle, because some hon. Members have tried to suggest that, in some way, my right hon. Friend is departing from the principle of the matter. The principle is that she has put forward proposals for the establishment of passenger transport authorities under broad local authority control. She is also putting forward proposals for capital grants by the Government to assist the re-equipment of public transport and for Government financial responsibility in respect of a subsidy for rural transport precisely to maintain and revive public transport, because that is basic to her policy.

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

But what is Parliament's function? The Opposition are part of Parliament and, because discussions are going on which will be important to the country's transport, they have initiated a debate to probe it. They have asked questions and, wherever they have got their information from, it is Parliament's job to see that they are properly answered, so that if there is any point—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Interventions by hon. Members who have not attended the debate must be brief.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) is not completely in the picture, because he has come in only at a late stage.

It has been made clear for some time what are the basic principles of my right hon. Friend's policy in regard to public transport in the towns and the relationship between the operation of public transport and traffic management. She has also put forward proposals for capital grants and for a rural bus subsidy.

These are matters on which my right hon. Friend has been carrying out consultations with local authorities on a very wide scale. It is right that she should do that and continue to do it, and she has undertaken to inform the House in a White Paper about the detailed character of her proposals when these consultations are concluded. I suggest that it is at that stage that hon. Members will receive the answers to the detailed questions which have been raised and, of course, it will be possible to debate them.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

The hon. Gentleman said that his right hon. Friend was having discussions with various local authorities. One question which I raised was whether Scottish local authorities are included in the discussions.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The discussions have been going on with local authority associations and others on a nation-wide scale. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have read the White Paper and will know, therefore, that the discussions concern the whole country.

A great part of the debate has been devoted to the working document published by the Government for the purpose of consultations on the nationalisation of our ports and docks. I am grateful for the speeches made by several of my hon. Friends, including the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes), the hon. Member for Southampton, Test and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who have commended the document and made detailed comments on which they will receive replies later on. I emphasise that the document is put forward genuinely for the purpose of the consultations, and that these will be carried on over a considerable period.

I want now to deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd). I was surprised at the tenor of it. It appears that, whenever he speaks, he has to "knock" the Docks Board, I suppose for ideological reasons. Nevertheless, he put forward the proposition that he was in favour of unified control of the ports and that, as I understood it, he was in favour of centralising information—resource allocation, as he called it—but dispersing decision making. I made these notes from his speech.

If the hon. Gentleman has read the working document carefully, I cannot understand how he imagines that the principles which he wants to see developed in national port policy can be achieved without implementing the principle of public ownership. It appears to us that containerisation, which is the important thing today, makes public ownership not merely desirable, but imperative. Containerisation is having the effect of turning the port industry from a labour-intensive industry into a capital-intensive one, and we cannot afford to duplicate these expensive facilities all round our coasts.

If we try to do that, we shall burden industry with intolerable and unnecessary transport costs. It is, therefore, essential, on the hon. Gentleman's own argument, to have a strong central authority which will see that port investment serves the national interest rather than purely local interests.

During the debate an hon. Gentleman disclosed that he had not read the McKinsey Report. I think that the hon. Member for Langstone has read it, but he attempted to use the argument of the advances in containerisation and modern development in the United States as an argument against the proposal that public ownership was a necessary step to achieve the kind of planning that we want. I would like, therefore, to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman, and of other hon. Members, to page 58 of the McKinsey Report, where it says: Port authorities face the same dilemma as ship operators—Either they must expand by providing new container facilities or experience progressive loss of general cargo trade to those that have—However, if many authorities decide to provide facilities, substantial over-capacity will result in this industry as well.As indicated, one container berth can replace up to 20 break-bulk berths…The problem is especially acute in countries like the United States where there is no national co-ordination of port investments.On the United States East Coast, most traditional general cargo ports are independently developing container facilities, only a few of which could handle the entire trade if fully utilised.On the West Coast, San Francisco and Oakland may shortly be developing facilities to compete for the same trade.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Portsmouth Langstone

One of the things which the McKinsey Report has not pointed out, and a fundamental philosophical disagreement arises, is that the container revolution makes possible a wide development of small selected transshipment points. There is no reason why a small port, either in the United States or in Great Britain, should regard itself as debarred from this development.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Considering the nation's resources and the deployment of the ports, I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have regarded it as of key importance that the correct decision should be taken about the location of container berths, and about the substantial investment that is taking place. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is not like the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster), who says that the only thing the Minister of Transport is doing is playing about with the question of nationalising our ports.

Let me give the figures for port investment during the last six years. In 1962, capital investment in ports amounted to £17·9 million. In 1963, it was £13·8 million; in 1964, it was £18 million; in 1965, it was £26·5 million; in 1966, it was £35·2 million; and this year it will reach more than £40 million. Just as my right hon. Friend rebutted what the hon. Member for Worcester said about the roads programme, so those figures rebut any idea that my right hon. Friend has been neglecting investment in the ports. On the contrary, we have made a substantial increase in investment and modernisation in the ports. That is why we regard the question of reorganisation as being of key importance.

But there is another consideration. D-day, for decasualisation in the docks in this country, is now in sight. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has said that provided he is satisfied with the report presented to him by the independent members of the National Modemisarsation Committee he will take the necessary steps to end the casual system of employment in our docks by 15th September. As the House knows, the independent members presented their report to the Minister by 1st July, as promised, and he is considering it urgently. This is a momentous issue on which the Government will be announcing their decision shortly. It marks the culmination of efforts made over many years to introduce a more stable pattern of employment in our docks.

One recalls the first National Docks Registration Scheme introduced by Mr. Ernest Bevin in the wartime Coalition Government and the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1946, introduced by Mr. George Isaacs and the first Dock Labour Scheme made under it, which is virtually that which is operating today. This scheme was a tremendous advance on the unregulated scramble for work in the docks that had gone on before, but it still provided a pool of casual labour from which most workers were allocated on a daily basis.

There was a growing feeling on all sides that this was not appropriate for the second half of the 20th century. The Devlin Committee was set up by the Minister of Labour in October, 1964. It reported in August, 1965, and it crystallised these ideas into a specific plan for the complete abolition of the casual system in the docks. In essence, its recommendations were that the number of employers should be reduced by a system of licensing and that every registered dock worker should be allocated permanent employment by the operation of a completely revised dock labour scheme.

It is nearly two years since the Devlin Report was published. During that time negotiations have proceeded in the industry at national level and port by port to turn this plan into a reality. The Docks and Harbours Act, 1966, was put on the Statute Book to provide for the licensing of employers and improved arrangements for supervision of welfare amenities in the docks. The two sides of industry set up the National Modernisation Committee, with Lord Brown as Chairman and three other independent members. One of the many matters with which the Committee was concerned was the pay scheme which was to accompany the introduction of the new system. This was the subject of a further report by a Committee under Lord Devlin's chairmanship in October, 1966. In accepting in principle a number of recommendations made in its Report, the Government made it clear that proposed pay increases were to be conditional on the specific agreement for the elimination of restrictive practices and a recognition of the prices and incomes policy. These are not matters which can be settled by a stroke of the pen. They have been the subject of detailed negotiations between employers and trade unions in the local modernisation committees set up for every port in this country.

It is the independent members' Report on the outcome of these negotiations which is now before the Government. The independent members have said that they are confident that their report confirms that the Government's conditions will be met. If this is so, and the new scheme is introduced in September, as planned, we are confident that the new system will offer dockers greater security to meet the coming technological changes in their industry, which has been such a big part of the subject of this debate, and will also give them the benefit of increased efficiency in the industry.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

While the right hon. Gentleman is busy with his Ministry of Labour brief, will he answer my question, whether the Docks Labour Board is to be brought to an end upon nationalisation of the docks industry?

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The hon. Member was on the Standing Committee on the Docks and Harbours Bill, and he knows quite well that we had discussions on subjects which formed a large part of the debate today, on the proposed reorganisation of ports and docks and the very important natters with which I have just been dealing.

We believe that the introduction of a new scheme—

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

—will offer immediate improvements in the day-to-day running of the ports, speeding the handling of imports and exports and the turn-round of ships and that it will provide stable foundations on which—

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

—wider reorganisation of the ports under public ownership can be carried through.

Hon. Members who have followed these matters will know that these negotiations and developments for the abandonment of restrictive practices, combined with the higher rate of capital investment in the ports, the figures for which

I have given, and the implications of the container revolution are closely interconnected and make of over-riding importance the implementation of the scheme of public ownership of the ports on which the Government have put forward the working document for consultation.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, two hon. Gentlemen wish to ask him a question. He must choose. He chooses neither. It is within his capacity to choose whom he likes and apparently he chooses neither.

Question put,That this House is opposed to further nationalisation of bus operators, road hauliers and the ports and docks industries, and therefore deplores the Government policies which threaten these industries:—

The House divided: Ayes 239, Noes 306.

Division No. 472.]AYES[9.57 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Corfield, F. V.Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Costain, A. P.Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)
Astor, JohnCraddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Crawley, AidanHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)
Awdry, DanielCrosthwaite-Eyre, Sir OliverHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Baker, W H. K.Crouch, DavidHarvey, Sir Arthur Vere
Balniel, LordCrowder, F. P.Harvie Anderson, Miss
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyCunningham, Sir KnoxHastings, Stephen
Batsford, BrianCurrie, G. B H.Hawkins, Paul
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonDalkeith, Earl ofHay, John
Bell, RonaldDance, JamesHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHeseltine, Michael
Berry, Hn. AnthonyDean, Paul (Somerset, N.)Higgins, Terence L.
Bessell, PeterDeedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Hiley, Joseph
Biffen, JohnDigby, Simon WingfieldHill, J. E. B.
Biggs-Davison, JohnDodds-Parker, DouglasHirst, Geoffrey
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelDoughty, CharlesHolland, Philip
Black, Sir CyrilDouglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir AlecHooson, Emlyn
Blaker, PeterDrayson, G. B.Hordern, Peter
Body, Richarddu Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHornby, Richard
Bossom, Sir CliveEden, Sir JohnHowell, David (Guildford)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnErrington, Sir EricHunt, John
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardEyre, ReginaldHutchison, Michael Clark
Braine, BernardFarr, JohnIremonger, T. L.
Brewis, JohnFisher, NigelIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Brinton, Sir TattonFletcher-Cooke, CharlesJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Bromley-Davenport.Lt. Col. Sir WalterFortescue, TimJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Foster, Sir JohnJohnston, Russell (Inverness)
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)Jopling, Michael
Bryan, PaulGalbraith, Hon. T. G.Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)Gibson-Watt, DavidKaberry, Sir Donald
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganKershaw, Anthony
Bullus, Sir EricGilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Kimball, Marcus
Burden, F. A.Glover, Sir DouglasKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Campbell, GordonGlyn, Sir RichardKirk, Peter
Carlisle, MarkGodber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Kitson, Timothy
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertGoodhart, PhilipKnight, Mrs. Jill
Cary, Sir RobertGoodhew, VictorLambton, Viscount
Channon, H. P. G.Gower, RaymondLancaster, Col. C. C.
Clark, HenryGrant, AnthonyLegge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Clegg, WalterGrant-Ferris, R.Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Cooke, RobertGrieve, PercyLloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillGurden, HaroldLloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Cordle, JohnHall, John (Wycombe)Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Longden, GilbertOsborn, John (Hallam)Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Loveys, W. H.Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Summers, Sir Spencer
Lubbock, EricPage, Graham (Crosby)Tapsell, Peter
McAdden, Sir StephenPage, John (Harrow, w.)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
MacArthur, IanPardoe, JohnTaylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Maclean, Sir FitzroyPearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Macleod, Rt. Hn. IainPeel, JohnTeeling, Sir William
McMaster, StanleyPercival, IanTemple, John M.
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Peyton, JohnThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Maddan, MartinPike, Miss MervynThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Maginnis, John E.Pink, R. BonnerTilney, John
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestPounder, RaftonTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Marten, NeilPowell, Rt. Hn. J. Enochvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Maude, AngusPrior, J. M. L.Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Maudlins, Rt. Hn. ReginaldPym, FranciaVickers, Dame Joan
Mawby, RayQuennell, Miss J. M.Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Ramsden Rt. Hn. JamesWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Maydon, Lt. Cmdr. S. L. C.Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterWall, Patrick
Mills, Peter (Torrington)Rees Davies, W. R.Ward, Dame Irene
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir DavidWeatherill, Bernard
Miscampbell, NormanRidley, Hn. NicholasWebster, David
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Ridadale, JulianWells, John (Maidstone)
Monro, HectorRobson Brown, Sir WilliamWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Montgomery, FergusRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Royle, AnthonyWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesRussell, Sir RonaldWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughScott, NicholasWood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Murton, OscarSharples, RichardWoodnutt, Mark
Nabarro, Sir GeraldShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)Worsley, Marcus
Neave, AireySinclair, Sir GeorgeWylie, N. R.
Nicholls, Sir HarmarSmith, JohnYounger, Hn. George
Nott, John
Onslow, CranleyStainton, Keith
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Steel, David (Roxburgh)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Orr-Ewing, Sir IanStodart, AnthonyMr. R. W. Elliott and
Mr. Jasper More.
NOES
Abse, LeoCant, R. B.Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Vardley)
Allaun, Frank (Saltord, E.)Carmichael, NeilFaulds, Andrew
Alldritt, WalterCarter-Jones, LewisFernyhough, E.
Allen, ScholefieldCastle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraFinch, Harold
Anderson, DonaldCoe, DenisFitch, Alan (Wigan)
Archer, PeterColeman, DonaldFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Armstrong, ErnestConcannon, J. D.Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Ashley, JackConlan, BernardFoley, Maurice
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Craddock, Ceorge (Bradford, S.)Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Cronin, JohnFoot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceCrosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyFord, Ben
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardForrester, John
Barnes, MichaelCullen, Mrs. AliceFowler, Gerry
Barnett, JoelDarling, Rt. Hn. GeorgeFraser, John (Norwood)
Baxter, WilliamDavidson, Arthur (Accrington)Freeson, Reginald
Beaney, AlanDavies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Gardner, Tony
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Ginsburg, David
Bence, CyrilDavies, Harold (Leek)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodDavies, Ifor (Gower)Gourlay, Harry
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Bidwell, Sydneyde Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyGregory, Arnold
Binns, JohnDell, EdmundGrey, Charles (Durham)
Bishop, E. S.Dempsey, JamesGriffiths, Will (Exchange)
Blackburn, F.Dewar, DonaldGunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Blenkinsop, ArthurDiamond, Rt. Hn. JohnHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Boardman, H.Dickens, JamesIfamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Booth, AlbertDobson, RayHamling, William
Boston, TerenceDoig, PeterHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurDonnelly, DesmondHart, Mrs. Judith
Bowden, Rt. Hn. HerbertDriberg, TomHaseldine, Norman
Boyden, JamesDunn, James A.Hattersley, Roy
Dunnett, JackHazell, Bert
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Heffer, Eric S.
Bradley, TomDunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Henig, Stanley
Bray, Dr. JeremyEadie, AlexHerbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Brooks, EdwinEdelman, MauriceHilton, W. S.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)Edwards, Robert (Bileton)Hooley, Frank
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Edwards, William (Merioneth)Horner, John
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)Ellis, JohnHoughton, Rt. Hn, Douglas
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)English, MichaelHowarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Buchan, NormanEnnals, DavidHowarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Ensor, DavidHowell, Denis (Small Heath)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Howie, W.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesEvans, Gwynior (C'marthen)Hoy, James
Huckfield, L.Mayhew, ChristopherRowland, Christopher (Meriden)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Mellish, RobertRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)Mendelson, J. J.Ryan, John
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Mikardo, IanShaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Millan, BruceSheldon, Robert
Hunter, AdamMilne, Edward (Blyth)Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Hytid, JohnMitchell, R. C. (s'th'pton, Test)Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Molloy, WilliamShort, Mrs. Renee(W'hampton, N.E.)
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Jay, Rt. Hn. DouglasMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras, S.)Morris, John (Aberavon)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Moyle, RolandSkeffington, Arthur
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Murray, AlbertSlater, Joseph
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Newens, StanSmall, William
Jones, Dan (Bumley)Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Snow, Julian
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)Spriggs, Leslie
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Norwood, ChristopherSteele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Oakes, GordonStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Judd, FrankOgden, EricStonehouse, John
Kelley, RichardO'Malley, BrianStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'tet & Chatham)Orbach, MauriceSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Kerr, Dr, David (W'worth, Central)Orme, StanleySwain, Thomas
Kerr, Russell (Feitham)Oswald, ThomasSwingler, Stephen
Lawson, GeorgeOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Symonds, J. B.
Leadbitter, TedOwen, Will) (Morpeth)Taverns, Dick
Ledger, RonPadley, WalterThornton, Ernest
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Page, Derek (King's Lynn)Tinn, James
Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)Palmer, ArthurTomney, Frank
Lee, John (Reading)Pannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesTuck, Raphael
Lestor, Miss JoanPark, TrevorUrwin, T. W.
Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Parker, John (Dagenham)Varley, Eric G.
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Pavitt, LaurenceWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lipton, MarcusPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Watkins, David (Consett)
Lomas, KennethPentland, NormanWatkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Loughlin, CharlesPerry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)Weitzman, David
Luard, EvanPerry, George H. (Nottingham, s.)Wellbeloved, James
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonPrice, Christopher (Perry Barr)Whitaker, Ben
McCann, JohnPrice, Thomas (Westhoughton)White, Mrs. Eirene
MacColl, JamesPrice, William (Rugby)Whitlock, William
MacDermot, NiallProbert, ArthurWigg, Rt. Hn. George
McGuire, MichaelPursey, Cmdr. HarryWilley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
McKay, Mrs. MargaretRandall, HarryWilliams, Alan (Swansea, w.)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Rankin, JohnWilliams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Mackie, JohnRees, MertynWilliams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Maclennan, RobertReynolds, G. W.Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)Rhodes, GeoffreyWillis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Richard, IvorWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
McNamara, J. KevinRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Winnick, David
MacPherson, MalcolmRoberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Winterbottom, R. E.
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Robertson, John (Paisley)Woof, Robert
Manuel, ArchieRobnieon, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)Wyatt, Woodrow
Mapp, CharlesRobinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)Yates, Victor
Marquand, DavidRodgers, William (Stockton)
Marsh, Rt. Hn. RichardRogers, George (Kensington, N.)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mason, RoyRose, PaulMr. Joseph Harper and
Maxwell, RobertMr. Neil McBride.