Call our Sales Team on 0208 912 2120

Mr. Churchill Looks Both Ways— I T would be idle to

16th November 1951
Page 37
Page 38
Page 37, 16th November 1951 — Mr. Churchill Looks Both Ways— I T would be idle to
Noticed an error?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.

Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

deny the road transport industry's disappointment over the King's Speech. So much hope had been founded on a change of Government that the nebulous reference to proposals "to facilitate the extension of private road haulage activities" was a sharp anti-climax. The absence of any indication that the process of nationalizing road passenger transport would be halted was also discouraging.

Perhaps unavoidably, the debate in the House of Commons, on Monday, did little to clarify the position. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, the Home Secretary, said that the 25-mile limit on the activities of free hauliers would be altered, but he was unable to indicate the form which the modification would take. His statement that "our intention is, as it always has been, to diminish the monopolistic powers of the British Transport Commission over the long-distance sections of the road haulage industry," implies that the Road Haulage Executive will continue in some form.

A clue to the Government's cautious attitude towards road transport may be found in Mr. Churchill's statement that the Nation ,is deeply and painfully ',divided, with the opposing forces almost numerically equal. He is perhapswisely practising kerb drill and• looking to the Left, as well as to the Right, before crossing the contentious road to denationalization. As he said in the House of Commons, the country needs a • period of quiet and steady administration, and he is probably seeking to reduce controversy during • the early life of the new Government.

Back to the Amendment Act The terms in which the King's Speech dealt with road haulage, and Sir David's supplementary statement, suggest that the Government may be ' considering relief rather on the lines proposed in the abortive Transport (Amendment) Bill.

• Under that measure, the free haulier's radius was to be extended from 25 miles to 60 miles. The Licensing Authorities were to be made • responsible for permits, further acquisitions were to be halted and the British Transport Commission was to be subjected to licensing control. The Bill was supported by the Road Haulage Association as a temporary expedient, but its proposals cannot now be regarded as a substitute for complete denationalization.

As reported in "The Commercial Motor," last week, Mi. John Birch, chairman of the Passenger Vehicle Operators Association, has suggested that the abandonment of area schemes for road passenger transport is purely an administrative matter. In advancing that argument he was probably relying on the permissive nature of Sections 63-65 of the Transport Act, and on Section 4, which authorizes the Minister of Transport to give directions to the• B.T.C.

Direction by the Minister?

Section 4 (5) empowers the Minister to direct the Commission to discontinue any of its activities or dispose of any part of its undertaking, "provided that the Minister shall not give any such direction unless he is satisfied that the carrying on of the activities or the retention of the part of the undertaking . . . is unnecessary for the proper discharge of the duties of the Commission under this Act." As the Act clearly shows that evenits Socialist sponsors. were uncertain of the desirability of nationalizing road passenger transport, a Conservative Minister Of Transport may • be entitled to hold that area -schemes are "unnecessary for the proper discharge of the duties of the Commission" and take action under Section 4.

Such an argument could hardly affect road haulage, on which the Act is specific, and, -as Sir David said on Monday, new legislation will be necessary to deal with it. Meanwhile, the Road Haulage Executive is giving hauliers who have applied for acquisition, the opportunity of delaying transfer for six months.

The Government must have time to consider all the implications of denationalization, and to devise machinery to achieve it. No rapid solution of such a great problem is possible. Through Sir David, the Government has promisedthat in arriving at its policy, it will have regard to the representations of the -road haulage ' industry, which understands the practical difficulties.

Mr: Frank F. Fowler, chairman of the R.H.A., a3 has said that the Association would not press for any relief which it believed to be damaging to the interests of the user. Arrangements should be made for an early conference between the Minister of Transport, hauliers, the B.T.C. and transport users, to lay the foundations of practical measures to enable the road haulage industry better to serve the public. Although they may not all subscribe to the R.H.A. plan for denationalization, traders generally will welcome back the free hauliers whose businesses were wrested from them by the Trans port Act. Sir David promised again that dispossessed operators would be allowed to return, although he was unable to give any hint of the manner of their coming.

comments powered by Disqus