National Grouping Policy Defended
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• A Reply to Our Leader "Over-hasty Grouping" by the Executive of the National Association of Road Transport Groups
THE Executive of the National Association of Road Transport Groups welcome the invitation implied in your leading article of February 9, to reply to your criticism. The main points on which your readers are entitled to further information seem to be the following, (I) The Statement of Policy to which you refer has been unanimously adopted after prolonged and Careful discussion by the Executive ot the N.A,R.T G. and was circulated to members on January 20, 10 days before the meeting with Mr. Noel-Baker. A general meeting of members is arranged for March 2, at whiCh the Executive will submit this' policy for discussion, when they confidently expect that it will be approved and adopted. They consider that the writer of your leading articles has gone ".too fast and too far" in giving 'publicity to the Statement without any reference to the Association's responsible. officers and without permission to do so. [There was nothing on the document to suggest that-it was of a confidential nature.—ED.] As the document has been critically reviewed before it was released for publication the
Executive consider, it necessary to reply. '
Policy Not Yet Fully Endorsed
In the first place it is quite-untrue to suggest that al1 the groups and all the individual °members of each group are committed to the Statement. It is made perfectly clear. that the Statement has been adopted by the Executive and not yet adopted by the Association as a whole. The members have had an opportunity of submitting comments or. criticisms, and they will he able to debate the matter on March 2.. At this stage the Statement represents the unanimous views of the Executive, supported by-individual groups which have approved it entirely.
(2) It is most surprising to read that the policy seems to be devised to curry favour with the Ministry and to deprive the industry of its rights and privileges. It is, in fact, devised to show how a system based on democracy can be worked out so as to achieve self-government and not ministerial government for the industry. The first consideration has been the preservation of a greater degree of freedom for the individual operator than seems likely to be his under any other system. The suggestion that this form of industrial democracy is either Fascism or totalitarianism is simply fantastic.
P(3) As to rate fixing, there is widespread agreement that some form of rates structure is both necessary and desirable. There is no more objection to an agreement on rates than to one on wages, provided both parties in each case confer in arriving at an agreement. But any such agreement would become a farce unless provision exists for its maintenance. If we have a Government rates structure we shall presumably find it an offence for an operator to fail to comply with it. If, on the other hand, the rates be agreed as suggested between group operators and traders, how are they to be maintained?
The Executive propose tha.t an offender shall first be interviewed by his directors, when he will have an opportunity of stating his case. The directors, if they' be satisfied that his action is unjustified, and if he still persists in refusing to conform to any agreement, are then, and only then, advised to withdraw from him the advantages of membership. A still more important point has escaped your notice.
It must not be overlooked that the " haulier member, desiring' to carry on his business in accordance with ,principles which lie has found, in the course of years of experience, to be just and right is one of the rate-fixing patties'. Under the-proposals of the Executive he should be a member of the sub-committee to settle. the rates on this own. traffic:. He is not to have rates Imposed on him .willy nilly by .the group. 'The position must be looked at as a whole, not by regarding a small part of the recommendations without regard to their context.
(4) You describe as the most deplorable provision the recommendation that new groups should adopt a standard form of Memorandum and Articles of Association. This is a surprising criticism. If the writer of your leader had carefully examined the Articles of existing groups, together with the proposed standard form, he would have recognized in the lattera synthesis of the best features of the constitution of the present groups, and he would have noted the elimination of weaknesses appearing in some of them. The proposed standard form was prepared with great care, and, after most -meticulous scrutiny and amendnaent by the 'Executive, was finally settled, by eminent Counsel. It is a far better document than any new and inexperienced group could expect to draw up before formation, and apart from its intrinsic merifs its adoption will save new groups considerable time, trouble and expense. No sinister motive whatever 'underlies the provision of this .assistance to members: It is quite optional to groups to adopt this recommendation or not.
" (5) As for bulk buying and group trading, the allusion in your leader does not do justice to the Statement of Policy. The Executive cannot ignore the fact that some. groups are engaged in these activities, nor that other gronps are opposed to them. They are also bound to recognize that the large operator has an advantage over the small man through his greater purchasing power They. draw attention to these facts; they neither approve nor disapprove of bulk buying in their Statement, they simply recommend member groups not to ignore the question.
No Opposition to Outside Repairer The Matter of joint engineering facilitiesis somewhat different, but in the view of the Executive the pre-war position left a great deal to be desired. It should not be concluded, however,that in their wish to see Tar better service facilities open to operators the Executive are in opposition to the motor agent and repairer; in many cases, no doubt, groups may be able to make better arrangements through some existing service depot than they could otherwise do. Cases must be decided on their merits, with the main object of providing the most efficient service possible for the haulier; if, in a particular case, an existing trader can provide that service, the groups should arrange with him to do so.
(6) It may finally be observed that at the meeting on December 8, when the Executive undertook, at the request of members, to define their policy, an entirely unsolicited vote of confidence in the Executive was proposed and adopted with some enthusiasm, and they are confident that they have the support of members in believing that the present time calls for constructive leadership rather than hesitation and undoe diffidence in laying these proposals before the industry.