HAULIERS TOLD THAT 1\11 ONALIZATION IS CERTAIN
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Labour M.P. Steals Thunder al Ca:. Conservative M.P. Advised "Let ti Interesting Points From the Many Meeting: Know" : Speeches
THE best thing that happened at the Caxton Hall meeting on Tuesday of last week was the unexpected appearance of Mr. E. Porter, Labour M.P. for Warrington. He made it absolutely and horrifically clear that nationalization of the road transport industry was, short of a miracle, certain. He frightened the 300 or so hauliers present into realization of their peril and of itsimminence, which is what is wanted.
The wisest thing said at the meeting was the advice of Capt. L. D. Gammans, Conservative M.P. for Homsey, who told the hauliers to let the public know what that nationalization would mean for it—that it was no use holding meetings of protest amongst themselves, for that would get them nowhere.
The brightest gleam of hope, in view of Capt. Gammans's advice, came from the chairman, Mr. E. B. Howes, who told the meeting that plans were already under consideration for a mass meeting of all sections of the public, to be held at the Albert Hall early in the New Year, thus following the advice given in a leading article in "The Commercial Motor" dated November 16.
The meeting was organized by the Hauliers Mutual Federation in association with the National Conference of Road Transport Associations, Mr. E. B. Howes being chairman of both those bodies. He opened the ball with a trenchant speech, which began by pointing out that this Government had no practical idea of the way in which business should be conducted. It failed to realize that without freedom of enterprise there can be no real initiative, no incentive to struggle. It is, indeed, hopeless to struggle, for the shackles of nationalization limit movement so effectively that struggling is of no avail. It gets you nowhere.
Government Had No Mandate to Nationalize Road Haulage Industry
He denied the Government's claim that it has a mandate to nationalize the industry, and pointed out that, in the first place, the Government did not poll a majority. of the votes given in the General Election. In the second place, it is certain that, of those who voted for Labour, not one in a hundred thousand understood what was meant by nationalization and was certainly unaware of the dire effects which are bound to come from the nationalization of transport. The Government, he continued, had no right to make so hazardous an experiment as this at so critical a time in our history, when failure would be so disastrous.
I am certain, he said, that the people of this country will have to face disasters of the first magnitude as the result of, the irreparable damage which will be done to trade and commerce by the nationalization of various industries—in particular, that of transport. Already the mere threat is slowing the wheels of trade and commerce. He pointed out that road transport operation by Government officials—the Ministry of War Transport—has been tried not once, but twice, during this war, and in both cases has proved to be a lamentable failure. The second, which we are now told must be protracted until late next year, is inefficient and uneconomical. He challenged the Government to produce figures giving the total actual cost of running the Road Haulage Organization, analysing the costs in such a way that it would be possible to arrive at the real cost of transport for individual loads and comparing that cost withwhat it would have been if the work had been done by a haulage contractor quoting, carrying and operating, as well as controlling his drivers, in the manner in which he was accustomed before the war and which he would apply once more so soon as he was permitted to do so.
If, said Mr. Howes, the Minister will give us this information and if the comparison shows that the cost under Government control be less than under private enterprise, I will myself vote whole-heartedly for nationalization. Actually, he continued, we know from experienced the way in which the work is done that the cost of road transport under Government control is immeasurably greater than it is in the hands of private enterprise. We get the knowledge from comparison of times taken for carrying out specific movements of traffic.
He did not hope that the Ministry would disclose that information. Ministers, he said, made a fetish of secrecy, in which connectioo he referred to some of the activities of Mr. Shinwelt, the Minister of Fuel and Power, and his inability to give any useful data as to available supplies of coal and petrol. In particular, he stressed the point that that Minister, whilst willing to free millions of gallons of petrol so that the.pooling of retail deliveries could be abandoned, nevertheless refused to allow any more petrol to operators in the road transport industry. It appeared, said Mr. Howes, that it is not intended that this industry should be enabled to get on its feet. Mr. Howes briefly touthed on the financial aspect of the takeover of the industry, and, whilst wondering where the money was to come from in a country that was practically bankrupt, nevertheless indicated a method of financial jugglery by which that object could be achieved. He gave a sincere warning of the position which would arise in the event of a strike of the employees of nationalized transport. Such a happening would paralyse industry and bring its commerce to a complete standstill. At present, he said, the constitution of road transport as a whole, in that it was divided into separate departments which were not likely to strike in unison, was a safeguard against so dire a calamity.
There is, too, said Mr. Howes, the question of what we are to do for our sons, nearly all of whom are returning, or are shortly to return, from fighting for this freedom in the hope that they will be able to enter the businesses which we are holding for them, and ultimately to take our places, carry on the good work, and render the efficient service that has always been the watchword of this industry.
He concluded by pointing out that, just as in 1940 the people of this Nation organized themselves and built up a counter organization which defeated Hitlerism, so the haulage industry of this country must organize and build a counter organization to fight the threat of totalitarianism which now faces us.
Sir Malcolm Campbell Against Bureaucratic Control and Methods Major Sir Malcolm Campbell, M.B.E., followed. He said that during the past five years or so he had been in the Army and so had a particularly close acquaintance with bureaucracy and its methods of operation. Heaven help usl he said, if we must be compelled to make use of such aids in our daily life. That the Government should propose to nationalize transport was, he said, a terrible thought, for State administration of industry means stagnation, the filling up of forms, the obtaining of permits, delay, exasperation, and inefficiency. The hand of bureaucracy is a dead hand, whereas in the present state of this country we are needing new live hands to enrich the country and enable it to recover and recuperate. We could not have enough weapons in our armoury to fight the battle for existence which lay before us.
Touching briefly upon the history of the development of mechanical transport, Sir Malcolm pointed out that 50 years ago the motorcar was something to be wondered at, but was now a dependable machine. There had been a parallel development of goods vehicles. -Early pioneers were men of long view who saw that the goods vehicle would be the best means in the country for conveying goods and passengers. We have now the finest system of transport in the world. How has it been built up? By the far-sighted genius of Government Departments? Decidedly no. It has been constructed by the achievement of individuals working against the hindrance of Government Departments. The early difficulties which this industry encountered were due to the inadequacy of the roads of the country. What did the Government do? Instead of backing the industry and build ing roads to enable it to develop, it put restrictions on dimensions, weights and speeds of vehicles and applied heavy taxation on both vehicles and the fuel they used. When oil engines were developed for road transport and gave prospects of considerably increased economy of movement as regards both goods and passengers, what did the Government do? It clapped a heavy tax on oil fuel and deprived the country of benefits which would have accrued from the rapid development of that form of power unit.
One effect was that, during the recent war, when we should have had oil engines in large quantities suitable for all sorts of war-like purposes, we could not get them. The Germans were very much better placed. Lack of help, he concluded, is a Government characteristic. No new ideas will come of nationalization and we must get together and fight that threat.
Captain L. D. Gammans, M.P., began his address with the words of wisdom to which I have already referred. He said it was no use, in fighting this threat, for members of the industry to confine their activities to such occasions as this. They must contact the people of this country, the general public, and let all know what nationalization of road transport is going to mean to them; how it will harm them.
Nationalization of the Bank of and of Cable and Wireless had apparently upset no one. The people raised no objection, because they saw no threat to their freedom. Nationalization of civilian air transport did cause a little more concern, but not much Road transport is coming down to the level of the people themselves, and they should know what is .behind it and what effect it is going to have on them.
When Railways are Nationalized
They Begin to Lose Money
So soon as the railways are nationalized, they will begin to lose money. That has always happened, There has been no exception to the rule. He quoted several examples of this, including the fact that the South African railways are costing the inhabitants of that country £23 per head because of the losses incurred.
Directly this Government begins to lose on the railways it will use the power it has gained by nationalizing road transport to close that industry down and bolster up the railways.
The public had better wake up and understand what is going to happen to it if the Government be allowed to nationalize road transport into one gigantic State-controlled monopoly. All competition will be ruthlessly eliminated. The public will be forced to send goods by rail, whether it likes it or not. To move a load of furniture from one street to another it will be necessary to fill in a host of forms.
"I suppose that when we come to the end of life's journey we shall be driven off, to the cemetery in a Government hearse supplied by the Ministry of Works and Buildings, encased in a utility coffin provided by the C.W.S. or with 0.H.M.S. on the bottom of it, and assisted by a working party from the Board of Trade."
Why, he asked, does not the Government tell us what are going to be the advantages of nationalization and what possibilities there are to be of economy if the Government takes this industry over from those who are running it so well. It was the great voyagers of discovery of the Elizabethan century and their successors who founded the British Empire and gave to our small island the highest standard of living in Europe. If Sir Stafford Cripps had been President of the Board of Trade at the time of Queen Elizabeth we should have become about as prosperous as the Eskimos, and it is to that level that he and his friends will soon reduce us. As a matter of fact, Queen Elizabeth would not have put up with Sir Stafford for ten minutes.
Does anyone imagine that we can possibly restore our trade and reduce the costs of transport, which are such a vital part of the cost of production, by a system of rigid controls and Government interference?
My advice to you hauliers is to resist the temptation to take easy bribes from the Government in the face of favourable terms of nationalization, and fight it out. I am sure you will have the public on your side if you take the trouble to make it realize what will happen to it if these fantastic proposals are permitted to go through.
Part of the trouble is that people forget. They do not remember what their freedom was. Most of the young people to-day, have, so far as their adolescent life is concerned, become accustomed to living under a system or controls and being told by the Government to do this and to do that. They do not know what they have lost. Take as an instance what occurred 25 years ago when the telephone service was nationalized. That was the worst thing that could have happened, for the telephone service in this country is amongst the worst in the world. In the United States there is a telephone in every working-class home, and
the service is excellent The telephone company pays £25,000,000 per annum in taxation to the State. In this country, under nationalization, the profit from the poor service we get is hardly £1,000,000 per annum. It is impossible for us to realize what sort of a service we might have had but for nationalization.
The Chairman then called upon his son Anthony, who, he said, was present in the hail, and asked him to give his impressions after having heard these speeches.
Youth Who Cherished Hopes of Joining His Father's Business
Mr. Anthony Howes said that one effect was to make him more than a little anxious. He could see that if road transport were nationalized it would be a very serious thing for the sons of road-transport operators, and especially serious for those a little older than himself who have been on active service in this war and who are looking forward to giving a helping hand in their fathers' businesses when they return to " civvy street." He himself, for as long as he could remember, had intended to follow in his father's footsteps and take a correspondingly prominent part in the roadtransport industry. This course will be denied to him if road transport be nationalized, and he could see nothing for it but to go to some other country where there is liberty of action and where enterprise on the part of the individual brings its own reward.
Mr. G. W. Dean, treasurer, Council of Retail Distributors. came next. He said that he was a C-licensee, and foretold that what is about to happen to road hauliers will eventually happen also to him.
He prophesied that when, eventually, the adoption of the policy of nationalization had wiped out the little man of this country, and when, as was inevitable, the policy was found to be a failure, then it will be disclosed thatthe big men have all the time been waiting on the side lines and will be ready to step in and take over again. The little man will not be able to come back.
Mr. Skelding (Birmingham Passenger Vehicle Association) gave the views of the passenger-transport industry. He referred to Mr. Morrison's speech of the night before, in which he had stated that passenger-vehicle businesses would be grouped under Regional Boards. There was, he said, no justification for that move. For 30 years the road-passenger industry, carried on by private enterprise, had been serving the public in a way unequalled by any other industry. Mr. Morrison had said that, under his new plan, the industry would be given stability. That plea will not do, said Mr. Skelding. The Road Traffic Act of 1930 had itself brought about stability in the industry in all possible ways. It was the intention of the passenger side of the industry to challenge this move, winch was nothing short of premeditated theft of an industry which was giving the travelling public what it wanted in as efficient a manner as could be. Any shortcomings, he said, were due to restrictions put upon them by the Regional Transport Commissioners, whose primary object they appeared to be. One restriction is made and the Regional Transport Commissioner and his staff sit back to see how the industry survives it. When the industry does manage to survive the Regional Transport Commissioner thinks out another restriction and says: '' Now have a go at that one." . Mr. J. Arnold Kirby, President of Hauliers Mutual Federation, dwelt upon the effect which the nationalization of road transport would have on the commercial economy of the country. Political theory, he said, was overwhelming commercial necessity. Haulage contractors, a hard-working section of the community, knew how best to run transport in an economic manner. Road transport, far from being inefficient as the Government said, was, as a matter of fact, too efficient—for its competitors. The efficiency of road transport under private enterprise was thrown into high relief by the utter economic failure of the Road Haulage Organization. He said that in driving to London that morning he saw a chalked notice on the back of a vehicle. It said:— " You will be sorry If they Nationalize this lorry."
Mr. G. Mackenzie Junner (Editor pf "The Commercial Motor ") said that this nationalization was a grave experiment. Such a matter should never be left to the politicians. Government control of transport will become the biggest montopoly in the country. Who, he asked, will fix the rates? Shall we have something in line with the Post Office, which charges 21d. for lid.-worth of transport, that .being the only way in which it can show a profit on its enterprise and return something to the Government by which it is controlled. If, under nationalization, transport proves uneconomic, as it is certain to do, the public will have to pay through increased taxation.
General Election Held in Time of Confusion Amongst the People The votes cast at the General Election were given at a time of general confusion. The war was just over. People wanted a change and it was in that spirit that they voted a Labour Government into power, not because they had any real intention of voting for nationalization, which is now clearly the one and only policy which this Labour Government intends to pursue.
Nationalization of long-distance haulage means the unnecessary amputation of a vital part of our industrial system, which may exercise a powerful and harmful reflex action upon the whole. "Long distance" may also prove to be an elastic term. At present, it means any distance over 60 miles. This might be reduced considerably if the Government though advisable, for the State is a bad competitor—it does not appreciate rivals. He asked whether hauliers would be content to be slaves, fettered to the wheels of Government chariots to form a kind of Labour triumph. Would this be to the benefit of trade and industry?
Many of the smaller men, and some of the larger, in our industry must have put their trust in the Labour Government, and have thought:—" They could not do this to me, even if the other fellow may have to suffer." He said some, or, perhaps, many of you here may have voted for Labour. Did you, in doing so, realize the full implications of your action?
It is futile to speak of adequate compensation. Mere money is not recompense for such a loss. A man with a few lorries who has been able to make a satisfactory living for himself and his family could not possibly be .paid sufficient, even if it were in cash, to bring in an adequate return.
The alternative to, possibly, some minor pdsition in the Government Organization would be to take a place in the unemployment queue, and that with few qualifications for other classes of work. What an outlook for a free man!
Many years ago the Barons made King John sign the Magna Carta. Now, the Labour Barons are destroying it. The Government has behind it a huge majority in the House of Commons, but not all Labour Members may be as enamoured of this nationalization policy as is Mr. Herbert Morrison.
It was his idea that nationalization is a confession of weakness, a lack of faith in the ability of man to manage his own affairs: It is the exalting of the bureaucrat over the worker who devotes his life to his business.
The essential factor in transport is speed, not only from place to place, but in respect of its control. Could trade and industry, he asked, expect this from a nationalized system?
State control has also no magic wand, the waving of which could reduce costs.
The industry, however, must not bring itself into disrepute by following the example of so many other workers who havo not hesitated to inflict hardships upon the public.
Mr. Dunnage (Editor of "Transport Management ") said that we ought to prepare facts and figures and present a case against nationalization. He suggested that they should put forward concrete proposals which will meet the alleged intentions of the Government.
He referred to Sir Cyril Hurcomb, who stated that a comparative figure of 5d, for transport in 1919 had been reduced by 1939 to N. Is that, he said an indication of inefficiency? Moreover, he went on, it is worth considering how much more that reduction would have been had our industry in the meantime not been subjected to heavily increased taxation. This nationalization, he said, is a plan to make the world safe for railway financiers.
The following five resolutions were then proposed, and carried unanimously:—
(1) That this Conference of independent hauliers calls the attention of the Minister of War Transport, Members of Parliament, and, particularly, the citizens of Great Britain to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Transport, published so far back as 1930. These recommendations remain the last authoritative pronouncement on transport policy and problems. The Conference demands that a similar Royal Commission be immediately set up to inquire into the workings of the mechanical road transport industry before any decisions in regard to the further control of the Haulage Industry by the Government are introduced.
(2) That this Conference demands the immediate abolition of Regulation No. 73b, believing that, if the road haulage industry be given an opportunity to operate free from restrictive Government controls. it will prove that, both on a basis of cost and efficiency, the best interest of the community will be served by a free road-haulage system.
(3) That this Conference of hauliers expresses its considered opinion that the Government Road Haulage Organization is against the best interest of the community in Great Britain, and considers itself to have no confidence in this scheme.
(4) That this Conference instructs the National Conference of Road Transport Associations immediately to appoint a Delegation to wait upon the Rt. Hon. Alfred Barnes, P.C., M.P., Minister of War Transport, with a view to opening discussions on the demerits of the Government's present Road Haulage Organization, the abolition of Regulation No. 73b, and the threat to the community of the Government's proposed policy of nationalization of the road haulage industry.
(5) That this Conference considers that it should remain in existence as a permanent body, representing the interests of the independent hauliers of Great Britain, and that it should meet from time to time as convened by the Ch4irman.
It was then disclosed that Mr. E. Porter, Labour M.P. for Warrington, had been in the hall for some time without disclosing the fact that he was present.
Solitary Labour M.P. Makes Grave Accusations Against the Haulage Industry
He was immediately invited on to the platform by the Chairman, and commenced by forthrightly announcing that he was against those present in the room, that much of what he had heard that afternoon was not true. The people of this country, he said, had put this Government into power knowing that nationalization was the principal plank in its platform. It was all nonsense to speak of a minority of votes being given for the Government. The plain fact was that it had a majority of over 300 in the House and had fully decided to make use of that majority to carry out nationalization of the road transport industry, amongst others. He went on: "If you are under the impression that we have no
experience of road haulage or passenger transport, all I can say is that you are living in a fool's paradise. In the past you have cut one another's throats. In many cases you paid rotten wages."
There were protests at this, and the interruptions grew, and only energetic action by Mr. Howes.enabled Mr. Porter to obtain a hearing.
He charged hauliers with paying low wages, but, on being confronted by Mr Arnold Kirby with the fact that haulageworkers' wages have risen 64 per cent. during this war, which is slightly less than the increase in most other industries, but is only less because hauliers were paying better wages than others before the war, he had no audible answer to make.
The frequent interruptions included shouts 'from operators that their businesses were not for sale, and eventually a resolution was passed, only three voting against, saying: "We will not collaborate in any shape or form with this Government in nationalization."
A feature of the meeting was a speech by Driver Mason, an employee of Transport Economy, Birmingham. He said that there appeared to be an idea that employers and employees in the industry were not on good terms. That was not so; they were friends. Road transport was of inestimable value to industry, and he referred to the responsibility which is assumed by driveI.. and, in particular, to What occurred during the worst periods of the blitz. He remembered one occasion when a number of vehicles was assembled outside London while the blitz was at its worst. The drivers got together and remapped the delivery plan amongst themselves so as to eliminate the rik oVfailure, and, in fact, they never failed to deliver and never failed to collect their loads during the worst of the blitz.
Asked by Mr. Howes to give comparisons of one day's work done during the period between the operation of H.N.T.P. and W.H.O. and whilst under the control of R.H.O., the answer was that the amount of work done while the industry was a free organization was not less than double that done while under Government control.
Extracts from Letters to Mr. E. IL Howes From London, S.E.I5.—I am willing to place my services at your disposal in any way that you may consider useful in our fight against the nationalization of our industry. t suggest that a petition should be prepared by every haulier or transport manager throughout the country. This should be signed by all those employees of the industry who are wilting to do so. Managers and employers alike should also be asked to contact their men and explain to them the meaning and the probable results of nationalization. I would like to meet local trade union officials with their members, as, without doubt, many drivers are given an entirely different view of this matter frOm their leaders.
May I thank you very sincerely for the work you are doing for our industry, and congratulate you on your able chairmanship at the meeting at Caxton Hall?
From Reigate.—As a member of a concern operating under A, B and C licences mainly on furniture carrying, I-was pleased to attend the meeting at Caxton Hall. I am totally opposed to nationalization in any form.
You might entertain the following suggestions. That H.M.F. should immediately prepare and circulate to all members and others interested, copy for advertising in provincial newspapers. This should state clearly the case against nationalization. Forms of petition to be signed by operators, employees, customers and the general public should be prepared and distributed.
It seems to me that a strike is the only thing the present Government understands, although such action would be against my priniciples. In the meantime, suitable posters should be issued for mounting an lorries.
From London, wish to support your protest regarding the nationalization of road haulage. Most of my drivers 'would like to sign a petition. Perhaps something on these lines can be prepared.
From Leeds.—My son and two representatives of this concern were present at Caxton Hall, and gave an excellent report of the proceedings. I take this opportunity of congratulating you on its success and the way in which the meeting was organized. ft has caused great interest in . the industry, and members of other organizations are asking what these are doing.
I have just had a letter from one of our employees in Holland, who heard about the meeting from the broadcast. Others heard it in Germany, and some -scathing remarks were made about the Government. Many of the mechanics and drivers in the R.A.S.C. are feeling much concern at the Government's attitude, and some say that they now regret voting Labour.
I think it would be a good idea for you to join hands with otheerepresentative bodies in the matter of organizing the fight against this threat.
From Watford.-1 was at both meetings held at Caxton Hall, and consider these to be the best efforts ever put up for our case. I shall be glad of further information as to how 1 and other hauliers in this district can help.