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Denationalization After October 25?

28th September 1951
Page 28
Page 28, 28th September 1951 — Denationalization After October 25?
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

M.P.T.A. Conference Postponed : Hauliers Willing to Return : Propaganda and Law

HOPES of the denationalization of road haulage and relief from the " threat of area schemes for passenger transport are increased by Mr. Attlee's announcement that a General Election will take place on October 25.

An imniediate result of the Prime Minister's decision has been the postponement for a week of the Municipal Passenger Transport Association's annual conference, at Eastbourne. It was to have been held from October 23-26, but as many of the delegates would have been unable to leave their towns at that time, the conference will take place from October 30-November 2.

The Road Haulage Association will still hold its conference at Torquay from October 16-19. The business sessions will be devoted to the discussion of resolutions received from areas, and it is possible that the imminence of the election will somewhat change the course of debate.

The national council of the Association held a meeting on Wednesday to receive from the executive committee a plan for the denationalization of road haulage. The council was expected to lay down a firm policy on the subject.

Letter from Mr. Churchill Mr. Frank F. Fowler, national chair'man of the Association, told 200 hauliers at a meeting of the Northern Area, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, last week, that they were approaching their freedom. He produced a letter from Mr. Winston Churchill stating that a Conservative Government would denationalize road transport.

'The Conservative Party's policy for road transport, as expressed by Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, embraces the abolition of the 25-mile radius limit on free haulers, the return of ex-hauliers whose businesses have been acquired by the British Transport Commission and the reorganization of the Road Haulage Executive on a regional basis.]

Mr. Fowler agreed that difficulties . would be encountered in transferring the industry back to private ownership, but he did not think that nationalization had gone too far to be undone. Hauliers who had resisted acquisition were willing to buy back their vehicles, equipment and . premises, and Mr. Fowler believed that there would be enough finance available to purchase the 40,000 vehicles • owned by the Road Haulage Executive.

Legality of Propaganda The question of the legality of propaganda against nationalizat ion during the three weeks immediately preceding the election again becomes important. In January, 1950, the Passenger Vehicle Operators Association was advised by counsel that any extension of propaganda might be construed as intended to influence voters in the direction of candidates whose parties objected to nationalization. There is, however, likely to be no offence in continuing to fight area schemes in the north, East Anglia and A26 south-west, where they are already proposed.

At the time of the 1950 General Election, a cautious policy was advised in other areas. Counsel then thought that propaganda in 'opposition to schemes could safely be continued in areas other than those immediately threatened, so long as the campaign had already been started and was directed against area schemes as such, and not against the doctrine of Socialism.

It was also thought to be important to distinguish between the sponsors of a campaign. It was suggested, for instance, that an operator might not be entitled, during the election period, to start to issue propaganda against area schemes, although some other organization in his district, such as the Omnibus Passengers Protection Association, had already been conducting a campaign with the same object. The existence of that campaign, it was thought, might not exonerate him from a charge of corruption,

Whether the same caution will be observed on this occasion is uncertain.

0.P.P.A.'s Position Mr. R. Erskine-Hill, organizing secretary of 0.P.P.A., told "The Commercial Motor," this week, that the Association's activities would be somewhat curbed during the next few weeks, because although the organization was non-political, many of those who were interested in it were also concerned with politics. He added that in the Association's opinion, area schemes had left the orbit of Parliament and were now a matter to be decided locally.

The R.H.A. has sent area secretaries a circular drawing attention to the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1449, and stating that 'normal activities need not be suspended. Until October 5, when Parliament is dissolved, routine propaganda should be continued, but after that date, care should be exercised.

The circular points out that hauliers can assist the election campaign by supplying information to candidates and others, and by stating their views on denationalization.

The R.H.A. is considering whether to take counsel's opinion on the possibility of infringements of the 1949 Act at the Torquay conference, and on the question of how far area committees can assist candidates without incurring penalties.

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