Call our Sales Team on 0208 912 2120

A Sop to Cerberus

28th September 1951
Page 37
Page 37, 28th September 1951 — A Sop to Cerberus
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?

Political Commentary


LIKE an exploding star that scatters its particles in every direction and goes out in a .blaze of fireworks, the Labour Party seems to be disintegrating into as many policies as it has members. Whether or not the party conference at Scarborough will close the ranks, remains to be seen. . At the moment, the number of splinter groups is increasing. The most celebrated band of rebels entitled their recent manifesto "One Way Only," as if to imply that there were plenty of other ways which might all be tried, one after another.

One ominous rift in the lute was accentuated by the recent unanimous resolution . of the Trades Union Congress urging the desirability of a rigorous check on goods carried by traders' vehicles, and pressing for control to be exercised over the .issue of C licences and their operation, "as the present position constitutes a serious menace to the success of the nationalized transport industry." This is probably the strongest challenge the C-licence holder has had to face since the clauses that would have limited his operations were expunged from the Transport Act.

False Witness , Most of the arguments put forward to justify the new attack have already been answered. It was alleged by the proposer of the resolution, Mr. W. R. Gerrard, that the increase in the number of C-licensed vehicles had been abnormal, and that "in these days of pagan morality" operators could evade the spirit as well as the letter of the law. A few months ago, the Ministry of Transport published the results of an analysis which showed that there were reasons apart from nationalization for the increase in C-licensed vehicles and that there was no evidence of increases in their illegal use.

Bolder spirits might be tempted to•ask what is wrong in a trader putting his own vehietle on the road. In dealing with this question, the real reason for the T.U.C. resolution becomes plainer. "Traffic, which should rightly, belong to the nationalized roadservices is being filched from under their nose," said Mr. J. Brannigan. The president of the National Union of Railwaymen, Mr. H. W. Franklin, added: "Every additional licence nieans one more vested interet againstthe State monopoly of transport."

Recipe for Success One can see what they mean.. Nationalization of road transport cannot succeed unless it is complete. As a somewhat naïve exercise in logic, the argument

• has much to commend it Mr. Franklin reduced it to its plainest terms at Blackpool, when he said: "The coal industry or the Post Office would not be a success if the cream was skimmed off for private profit."

Whether or not the coal industry and the Post Office are successful, even in the favourable circumstances indicated by Mr. Franklin, is another question. The most illuminating point is the comparison of these two undertakings with the road haulage industry. Even if seams of coal were available; it is unlikely that the average firm would go to the trouble of digging its own pits, whatever the price and quality of the nationalized product. Nor would most of us relish the idea of delivering our own letters, unless the addressee happened • to live just around the corner—or perhaps Mr. Franklin would like to put a stop to this! The collection and delivery of letters can scarcely be done properly in any other way than as a monopoly. Any effect this may have on the service is part of the price of that monopoly.

Within the framework of Socialist doctrine, there is an overwhelming case for the nationalization of the coal mines and the Post Office. Both require a largescale organization, if not a monopoly. Both provide a service which members of the public would be unable to provide for themselves. This is not so in the case of transport. The purchase and operation of their own vehicles is not beyond the reach of at least the 400,000 traders and manufacturers now holding C licences, not to mention the 40,000 independent hauliers.

The T.U.C. Knows Best The T.U.C. is not suggesting that half a million businessmen must be wrong and would be much better off if they laid their vehicles up. The real trouble is that the parent party of the T.U.C., by nationalizing part of the road transport industry, has started a process which inevitably leads in the direction of a Monopoly. Competition from tree enterprise will be attacked, whatever its character. If it be inefficient, it must be liquidated, if it be efficient, the compulsion is even stronger.

Similar results would have followed had Socialist theory decreed the nationalization of window cleaning. Before long there would have been pressure to cut down the pension paid to former operatives for their goodwill and stock—probably described by Mr. Hugh Daltonas a "poor bag of assets." A demand would follow for the strict control of washleathers and buckets, so as to prevent the remaining operators under free enterprise, or the housewife, from skimming the cream off the Nation's profit.

The C-licensee in Danger Without being in any sense derogatory to the Clicence holder or the housewife, one may conveniently call them amateurs, as compared with the professional hauliers and professional window cleaners_ Any industry where it is possible for amateurs and professionals to work side by side is a .particularly bad subject for nationalization. Sooner or later the State finds it intolerable that traffic it would -like for itself is

diverted elsewhere So far, the Minister of Transport and the British Transport Commission have refrained . from a direct attack on the C-licence holder. It may well happen that their hand will be forced.

It is time for the C-licence holder to think out his own policy afresh. He has, for good reasons, tended to make friends with what he no doubt regards as the mammon of unrighteousness. The Association of British Chambers of Commerce has agreed on certain cOnditions to accept the principle of nationalized integration, while scarcely disguising that it regards the necessity in much the same light as a nasty dose of medicine. The Traders' Road Transport Association has endeavoured to discourage the use of vehicles on a C-hiring allowance,

These mild attempts at pacification may be largely wasted. They may go some way towards placating the Minister and the B.T.C. Upon-the T.U.C. they evidently have no effect at all. A sop to Cerberus hasonly a limited efficacy, for it should he' reinembered that the creature has three heads.

comments powered by Disqus