IEN AMPLIFY TRANSPORT PLAN
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Compensation for Displaced R.H.E. Staff : Inquiry into Passenger Transport
and was specifically designed to enable hauliers to come back into the business and enjoy greater freedom without treating the railways unfairly. The Government felt bound to bring in C-licensees, because they used the public transport system when it suited them to do so.
Explaining why the Government did not consult the B.T.C. before publishing the White Paper, Lord Leathers said that it must be for the Government to formulate the broad lines of policy and it would have been unrealistic to expect the Commission to take a completely dispassionate view of proposals which so deeply affected its structure and function. The B.T.C. was, of course, being consulted about the practical application of the principles embodied in the White Paper.
Central Finance Lord Leathers thought that there would have to be a central body to which the area railway boards could be responsible in such matters as finance and charges. This organization would also weld the financial results of the London Transport Executive, the various bus companies in which the Commission held shares, and other services.
Winding up the debate, Viscount Swinton, who said that there was no need for a Royal COmmission, declared that only the relation between railway passenger transport and road passenger transport required further inquiry. That question needed further investigation, which should be conducted as rapidly and effectively as possible.
Answering a question about the sale of lorries belonging to the railways, he said he understood that vehicles which were essential feeders to the railways would be retained. Road vehicles operatedby the railways for general haulage purposes would be sold.
Reserve Price Viscount Swinton thought that in some instances a reserve price would be imposed on units for sale. He believed that Lord Leathers could be trusted to ensure that a business deal went through in a businesslike way.
"One has to be sure," he added, " that the potential purchasers are not only good for the cash, but are also good for running the business which is going to be sold to them. It is certainly the intention to make sureof those factors."
He said that in the future, permits would be granted by an independent authority. Referring to the greater freedom to be given in licensing, he said that the test which the Licensing Authorities would apply would be: Are further lorries required to meet the reasonable demands of traffic offering? So long as the B.T.C. has vehicles, they would be subject to licensing.
Viscount Swinton denied that the levy was a subsidy for the railways. To raise rates for heavy goods that had to be carried by rail and to suppress road competition were just as much subsidies as the proposed levy, but were much worse, because they were concealed and were bad in form.
Lord Lucas argued that the Government was going to put up for public auction £80m. worth of taxpayers' property, and by so doing would endanger the security of the £1,200m. issued capital of the B.T.C.
He asked what was to happen to the 80,000 men and women employed by the R.H.E., to the Executive's 2,000 reserve vehicles and to the vehicles, valued at about £10m.,which the B.T.C. had on order. If the Railway Executive was not to be allowed to buy any of the vehicles, the railways would be in an even worse position than before nationalization.
Lord Lucas also asked what was to happen to the vehicles which private enterprise would not buy, and whether the R.H.E. would, in that case, be resuscitated.
Maj.-Gen. HE. Polon, director-general of the fighting vehicles division of theMintstry of Supply, recently visited C.A.V., Ltd.. London, W.3, accompanied by Mr. A. E. H. Masters, chief scientific _ogre? of the Fighting Vehicles Design Establishment. This pieture shows (left to right) Mr. A. T. Priddle, director cud joint general manager, C.A.V., Ltd., Dr. A. E. W. Austen, chief of the C.A.V. re. search department, Cell. Priman and Mr. Masters discussing a report.
Lord Beveridge, who wanted an inquiry by a Royal Commission, suggested that it would involve no real Loss of time. "If there is no chance of agreement on a really impartial report after exhaustive inquiries about transport, how miserable will the prospect be for this industry," he declared Ile appealed to the Government to see whether it could achieve some kind of agreement, irrespective of party interests, and to try to take transport out of politics for a time.
Lord Teynham was one of the Conservative peers who criticized the levy. He thought that C-licensees were being unfairly penalized. He would like to see the whole system of levies on an entirely different basis, with the country divided into six horizontal areas. In each area, the haulier and C-licensee would be permitted to have free movement on one licence. Should they wish to move into another area, they would have to pay for an additional licence and the money could be used for the purposes indicated in the White Paper.
"Defer Levy "
Lord Teynharn hoped that the levy wouldbe deferred for a year until the new transport organization had settled down, and that during this period the railways would be supported by the motor tax funds. The Government, he thought, should return to the railways some of the £195m. taken from them during the war.
He could not imagine, how the levy could be exclusively applied to the purposes outlined in the White Paper, and he did not think that any Government would have much difficulty in increasing it in its present form, for general taxation purposes..
He hoped that provision would be made for returning to free enterprise the nationalized bus companies.
Lord Sandhurst regarded the levy as a most dangerous precedent. He thought it a little curious to "ask people to pay a levy which is, in effect, being paid to provide for the help of those who want to enter in competition -with them." He was not optimistic about the number of people who would wish to return to the industry.