Legislative Stability Essential
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TIIE crying need of the commercial-vehicle Industry, on both the manufacturing and operating sides, is for stability. For years the trade has been the football between,the goal posts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Ministry of Transport, and whichever side has scored the ball has had to bear the brunt.
The recent Commercial Motor Exhibition was hailed as a great success, and this was due chiefly to the feeling amongst buyers that at last the worst was known, and that in the future the industry would not be called upon to suffer any more serious and severe shocks. That the motor manufacturers have survived the joint effects of constantly threatened changes in legislation and taxes is no credit to the Government, but purely an indication of the vitality of the companies concerned.
Vehicle Sales Easily Affected.
It does not require very much in the way of indications of changes being imminent to make potential buyers refrain for considerable periods from giving orders. Fleet renewals are frequently delayed through this cause, and the effects are itinsatisfactory from several points of view—the maker loses an order, the fleet is not run so efficiently, and the older vehicles are more liable to breakdown and accident. Examples of such periods of comparative stagnation are to be found on both the commercial and private sides.
For some years it was not known whether the McKenna duties on imported vehicles would be continued or abandoned. Then came the Jong delay after the final report of the Royal Commission on Transport, and the formation of the unnecessary and ill-constituted Conference on Road and Rail Transport, resulting in the issue of a staggering report, which, again, shocked . buyers into a state of uncertainty.
Even the direct knowledge of a certain measure of control of road transport and of the heavier taxation which commences on January 1 is, perhaps, better than lack of knowledge, on the principle that it "makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of."
There is still, however, no guarantee that in the future we may not have to suffer further restriction and other changes. A Minister of Transport, however fair-minded he may tie, Is, after all, only human. As each new Minister of Transport comes into power, he naturally tries to put into practice his own ideas, or those of his political party, and this seems to be the greatest weakness of this form of control.
We must assume, however, that the political shackles are too firmly forged, and the legislative proclivities of constitutional government too deeply rooted for any expectatiqn that the politician can ever be superseded by those who would control on business lines. All that it seems possible to hope for is that some measure of relief may be afforded by the formation of the Transport Advisory Council, but even when this is constituted it would seem preferable to have as the supreme head of affairs someone free from party andtvested interests, in fact, the post could be a permanency to the right type of man.
Control on Business-like Lines.
The whole control would then be on a far more business-like basis, and any transport co-ordination considered to be necessary could be carried out without bias and in a consistent manner, which would not interfere with the even flow of transport-and industry.
Such an authority should have the power to advise (A motor taxation, always having regard to its equity and its effect upon the industry. As it is each Chancellor in turn has his mind too firmly fixed on revenue without consideration as to the effects of overburdening industry.
What is required more than anything else to-day is a truce to legislation, so that manufacturers and the road transport industry can foresee a long period of stability. This would undoubtedly be to the good of the nation as a whore, as its well-being depends so greatly upon the economic utilization of its means for transport ; in other words, the use of the right vehicle In the right place.
The Minister Defeated in the Appeal Court
AMOMENTOUS decision on the appellate powers of the Minister of Transport and his authority to revoke road service 'licences and backings granted to coach and bus companies has been given by the Court of Appeal. It may be recalled that at the beginning of this year the Minister ordered the Metropolitan and Eastern Traffic Commissioners to revoke a licence and backing (respectively) granted to TJpminster Services, Ltd., for a LondonUpminster service, partly on the ground that the service had been operated illegally since its • inception. The revocation was to take effect when suitable alternative transport facilities were provided.
This decision caused a public outcry, which was supported by The Commercial Motor, for it was felt that, even had some irregularity been committed, the action of the Minister was altogether too drastic. The case was taken to the Divisional Court and the decision of the Minister was upheld, but in the Court of Appeal last week an emphatic reversal was effected.
It was laid down that the Minister had exceeded his powers and Lord Russell of Killowen remarked that it was "difficult to understand how the Minister could have considered himself entitled to dictate to the Commissioners how • they were to exercise the discretionary power vested in them by way of original jurisdiction." This case undoubtedly represents a triumph for road transport in the fight against repression. It is indeed fortunate that the directors of the appellant concern had sufficient confidence in their arguments, and enough capital, to carry the matter to its conclusion, thus affording the whole road passenger transport industry an important measure of protection against any similar action that the Minister might seekto take in the future.
The Standard Year for Basic Tonnage
O1NG to misleading reports which have been issued in connection with proceedings in the House of Lords, the impression has gained ground that what may be termed the standard year -(referred to in Clause 7 (2) of the Road and Rail Traffic Bill) has been amended from the date given in the Bill (April 1, 1932) to April 1, 1934.
This is totally incorrect. The only change made is in respect of the date for lodging the claim for basic unladen tonnage. This was originally to be six months after the date on which Section 1 of the Act comes into operation. Now, the claim date will be April 1., 1934.
This means that licence applications for vehicles in excess of this tonnage, purchased after March 31, 1933, and coming Into the "A" and "B" categories, will still be liable to objection, although this does not necessarily imply that the licences will be refused.
In connection with the restrictions on roads and bridges, we understand that the Minister of Transport has agreed to 28 days' notice being given before any restriction comes into force, so as to give adequate time for appeals to be made against it.