Promises of Freedom
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
• E welcome die mani W festol of the Conservative and U-n ion ist • Party, so far as our industry is concerned, mainly for the • reason that it contains definite promises which, if carried out—and there are no grounds to think that they will not be—will return to it •a large measure of the freedom and -private enterprise which it enjOyed• before the Socialists wasted so much valuable time and money in bringing large sections of it into State ownership.
The Conservative Party assures the Nation that if it be returned to power; the natimalization of buses will be halted, whilst wherever possible those already taken over will be offered to their former owners; whether private or municipal. On the haulage side it will be prepared to sell back to free enterprise interests those sections which have already been nationalized and restore the former system of A and B licences. . '
Another promise, and one of most vital interest to all free hauliers, is that the limitation of distance to which, under the Transport Act, private road hauliers became restricted on February 1, will be progressively eliminated.
. Trade and industry will also have been undoubtedly interested to learn that the present freedom of operation of vehicles running under C licences will be unchanged-.
Danger to C Licensees There has been a great deal of doubt in this last-mentioned sphere, for the reason that it was obvious that the freedom of the C licensee has been in great danger, and that if the political situation remains in the future as it is at present, some form of restriction on this class of operator is almost certain to be imposed. It has admittedly been difficult,to reconcile the activities of traders' own vehicles with those of nationalized fleets.
Many of the problems with which the British .Transport Commission is .confronted have been , blamed on the freedom still preserved by this ,important section of transport. It was realized, particularly by the Road Haulage-Executive, that ' haulage rates by road or rail could not be substantially. raised without encouraging those affected to operate their own vehicles. Thus the favoured scheme of so integrating transport that -the sections which could normally be operated economically at lower rates would be penalized and bear the burden of the losses in others, might be brought almost to naught.
It did not seem to matter to the Socialists that the cost of almost every material, product and commodity that our people employ in their daily life would be raised if the rates for their transport by road were to be increased. This highly important factor was consequently placed far below that of bolstering up an uneconomic railway system, the position of which was certainly not improved by a complety... centralization which 'removed incentive and -every element of -competition.
Stimulating the Railways We are not concerned with railways as such, except in so far as the onus of any failure on their part may be placed upon road transport. We remember, however, that in talking over their nationalization with several of the men who were then their general managers, we were told that each of the four individual groups which then existed was quite large enough for effective control. It was said that to coalesce them into one enormous entity would bring additional difficulties and problems, making for lack of contact and the reduction rather than the stimulation of efficiency.
The annual report and statistical returns of the B.T.C. have shown clearly that these fears were justified. Now, the Conservative Party puts forward the principle that British Railways should be reorganized into a number of regional systems, each with its own pride of identity, and administered by its own board of direction.
We believe that this would encourage a measure of competition and bring railway workers more closely into contact with those responsible for their well-being. Some competition with road transport would undoubtedly remain, but would serve, as it has before, to compel each side to give of its best.
The production of steel is another matter closely concerned with our industry, which depends so greatly upon this material. Under free enterprise, the tonnage has increased each year since the war, until it has reached record figures, even above the targets set. Vast schemes for the improvement of production, involving a huge amount of capital, have been set afoot, but these have, to some extent. been restricted by the ever-present threat of nationalization, culminating in a recent Act. it is the policy of the Conservative Party to repeal this if the opportunity presents itself.
Importance of " Free " Insurance Insurance might not seem to affect the individual operator of road transport, to any greater extent than the covering of his personnel, vehicles and loads, but from the national aspect its importance is much greater than might appear to the casual observer. Many of the companies concerned have invested enormous sums of money in a variety of business enterprises, some in our industry, so that their virtual ownership or control by the State would have far-reaching effects. An undertaking that this threat would be removed is given.
Workers in our industry, as well as in others, would benefit by the lower taxation aimed at the restoration of incentive particularly in connection with overtime and piece-work rates. We have frequently pointed out the loss of enthusiasm amongst all classes, caused by a form of taxation which penalized those who, by hard work and initiative, -increased their basic earnings and, possibly, positions. It has tended towards keeping workers on a common plane and removed that ambition and pride of achievement without which progress not only by those immediately concerned but by industries and. eventually, the country, could be made.
We note also the statement that the existing rationing system, including that concerned with motor fuel, will be ended as soon as this becomes reasonably possible without causing hardship in any quarter.
Lord Woolton, the chairman of the Party, has given the assurance that the document is an honest one, and that whatever pledges are contained within it will be redeemed.
Socialist Promises Broken We must remember in this connection that on many occasions in the early days of the Government's essays in nationalization. Ministers, and Mr. Herbert Morrison in particular, gave their word that efficient industries, properly conducted, would remain in the hands of free enterprise. This word was broken, and no section of trade and industry. or, in fact, any complete industry, can have any confidence that it will remain free if the Socialists be further encouraged.