The speech made by Peter Walker, the then Shadow Minister for Transport, in the House of Commons on 20 December 1967.
I must, first, comment on the right hon. Lady’s opening remark, that she wished that we had had two days to debate this Bill, but that it was the fault of the Opposition that we had not. It is remarkable that the Government should now consider that the Opposition should give some of its limited time for a Bill introduced by the Government. It is particularly unreasonable of the right hon. Lady when she knows full well that what she has done with this Bill is to put under one title eight Bills in an attempt to steamroller the whole lot through the House—[Interruption.] The right hon. Lady laughs at this, but she knows quite well, for example, that this Bill is three and a half times as long as the Steel Bill, which got into Committee at the beginning of November, and is 80 per cent. bigger than the Transport Bill of 1962, which went into Committee two months earlier and received the Royal Assent on 1st August.
Therefore, it is perfectly clear that the Minister is trying to push on to Parliament a Bill which it will not have sufficient time properly to debate and amend. The reason is quite obvious to anyone who examines the Bill, when he realises its effect, the enormous extension of public ownership and increase in public expenditure which is involved.
This is an outrageous Bill to introduce within a few weeks of having had to devalue. Within two days of the Prime Minister telling the House from that Despatch Box that this Government would make a determined review of public expenditure, they introduce a Bill which, in terms of capital write-offs, fresh loans to nationalised industries and new grants, adds up to a total bill of £1,900 million. This is the action of a Government who are trying to give the impression abroad that they are serious about public expenditure.
When one considers the difficulties of properly amending the Bill, one can obviously examine only its major facets. It would be irresponsible of me to comment on all the various parts of the Bill, because there will be a limited time for hon. Members on both sides to discuss them. But very little in the Bill is concerned with the real problems of transport—the provision of proper management and planning. What really obsesses the right hon. Lady is not management or planning but ownership. All through the Bill there is the one theme of extending the public sector as quickly as possible.
First, let us consider the proposals for railway reorganisation. This Minister’s record over the railways does not give us much confidence in their future so long as she remains Minister of Transport. Since she has been Minister, the railway deficit has soared. Indeed, only eight months ago the right hon. Lady was predicting in the House what this year’s deficit would be, and already she has been proved more than £20 million wrong. Was that the Tory policy? Did she not know the conditions in which she was operating? In fact, since Labour came into office, the deficit has gone up by more than £30 million.
Not only that, but everyone knows that labour relations on the railways have never been worse than in recent months as a result of the right hon. Lady. They also know that the morale of top management has never been lower. What a remarkable sense of proportion the right hon. Lady shows when she can at the same time write off more than £1,250 million-worth of capital and yet refuse to pay the Chairman more than £12,500 a year. This is a remarkable sense of proportion which the right hon. Lady has of the Chairman of British Railways, who anyway was her second choice. She wanted Mr. Peter Parker first, and from her answer this afternoon it is clear that a considerable number of other people were approached to see if they were interested in the job and, if they were asked, whether they would accept. It is no use her saying that, only Mr. Parker was asked, because others were approached, as she well knows.
At present, therefore, British Railways is making a deficit this year of more than £150 million, with considerable labour troubles and great difficulties; yet for six weeks the right hon. Lady allowed the newspapers every day to be full of speculation about who the Chairman would be and whether Mr. Parker would accept or get the salary which he wanted. What support is there for the new Chairman when he has to say at his first Press conference, “Yes, I was the second choice; the Minister really wanted Mr. Parker, but he was unwilling to agree to the salary conditions”.
Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
Is this in the Bill?
The hon. Member may not like it, but this affects the Bill in as much as this Minister will be administering it and I am trying to prove that she has shown herself completely incompetent at handling British Railways.
How are the Government tackling the problem of the railway deficit? Not by improving management and by trying to recruit the right management at the right salaries. The Government are tackling the deficit by a series of accounting procedures to put the deficit elsewhere on the taxpayer. In fact, the taxpayer will still pay for the railways, but instead of it being called a railway deficit it will be called part of the national debt or a Government subsidy to the railways, or a tapering-off grant or part of the grant to the National Freight Authority, or a precept on the roads to the P.T.A. If the Minister were able to say in five years’ time that the railways were no longer incurring a deficit, in fact it would mean that she was probably losing on the railways about £20 million more than when Labour came to power in 1964, if we added all the costs of the various accounting procedures that fell under those headings. It will all be disguised under different headings. Is that the way to make management face the realities of its task? There is no pressure for better management and no question of better salaries to attract the best management.
Next we have the concept of a subsidy. The right hon. Lady says, “Look at the way in which Conservative Members complain about the closure of railway lines”. As she knows, during her period of office she will be responsible for more closures than those for which we were responsible. She knows that the closures which have taken place and which she will allow to take place—several thousands of miles of closures—were and are needed and were and are sensible. But she also knows that once she gets into a subsidy position the pressures will start building up. Every time it is suggested that fares should be raised the areas concerned will ask, “Why cannot we have the service on the subsidy basis which the Government are operating in other areas in order to keep lines open? Why do we have to pay higher fares?”
I turn to the P.T.A. concept. Putting the railways on a cost-plus contract is not the way to get the best management. The Minister’s proposals show no indication at all that she will attract the right management to the railways. She will take the biggest asset—the freight liner trains—from them. She says that her proposals for quantity licensing will reinforce the sales drive of British Railways. What she means is that it will be a substitute for any sales drive which is in existence. Instead of British Railways achieving their marketing by management skills, they are to achieve it in future by Ministerial direction.
What of her statement about 11,000 route-miles? She knows that I have always made my position clear about it. It is nonsense, and she must know it to be nonsense, to say that in a railway system we are fixed to a rigid 11,000 route-miles. Patterns will change, and demands and needs will change. The only reason that the right hon. Lady chose the figure of 11,000 route-miles is that in the lifetime of this Government it is unlikely that it will ever fall below that figure—and when it reaches that figure it will, quite rightly, be reviewed in the light of existing demand. That figure is a piece of propaganda to give a false impression.
There is no indication that the right hon. Lady has any intention of tackling the problem of over-manning on British Railways. She knows that it exists. She announced the winding up of the Joint Steering Group. I dare her to publish the report of Cooper Bros, which was given to the Joint Steering Group. I dare her to refer two questions to the Group. I challenge her to ask them, before she winds up the Group, whether the members are in favour of the National Freight Authority as a concept. Let us get them to answer that question one by one. Let her also ask them what they estimate could be the reduction in the manpower force of British Railways if sensible managerial techniques were adopted. Let her publish that figure. But neither of those answers will ever be given by the Government.
It is impossible to talk about subsidies until British Railways are working efficiently under good management and with the proper labour force that is required. Every estimate which has been given by the experts who know the problems recognises that there is considerable overmanning on British Railways. I am the first to appreciate that if it is tackled it will create a social problem, and I should be the first to support every possible aid being given in terms of retraining and redundancy payments. But it is a nonsense for railwaymen to continue with an inflated labour force, because that will never get British Railways on a proper managerial basis.
I turn to the National Freight Authority. I said that it had no friends, and the right hon. Lady quoted in reply Professor Day in the Observer. I have the greatest respect for Professor Day’s views, but I do not think it is surprising that an Observer commentator should be friendly to some of the right hon. Lady’s views—particularly Professor Day, who is on one of the Government’s Transport Planning Councils and, I believe, is Chairman of it.
Of which Council?
The South-East Planning Council. I understand that he is Chairman of the Transport Consultative Council. If not, I apologise, but I believe that he is.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Morris)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that Professor Day’s judgment is altered in any way because of some office that he holds?
Not a bit of it. If I have given that impression, I completely withdraw it. I respect Professor Day, although I disagree with him in many of his views. But I respect him as a distinguished man and, I am sure, as an academic of integrity.
The right hon. Lady also quoted the Economist. I do not know whether it affects his views, but the Minister no doubt knows that the transport correspondent of the Economist was at the last election Labour candidate at Folkestone and at present is Chairman of the Soho Labour Party. I am told that the Soho Labour Party is one of the few remaining branches.
The Minister was unable to quote any friend apart from that. Industry does not support the Authority. There is no vocal support for it from the National Union of Railwaymen. [HON. MEMBERS: “Oh.”] They have certainly not said so; indeed, a. their conference they were very critical of it.
Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)
The N.U.R. support the main provisions of the Bill.
I am talking about the National Freight Authority.
What is wrong with the Authority? It does not integrate road and rail. It integrates nationalised rail with nationalised road and, by so doing, it positively avoids a proper integration with all the free-enterprise road services. This is where the Minister has allowed her critical prejudices to affect her judgment. During our last debate, she accused me of wanting British Railways to be an iron bridge to be used by the free enterprise hauliers whenever it was economic for them to do so. That is exactly what I want them to do, and it is a great pity that the Minister did not try to get this form of integration. Her policy is by handicapping road haulage to shift freight to rail, not by increasing the efficiency of rail but by further handicapping road haulage.
The Minister is well aware of the previous handicaps, for she has approved them all. They include three increases in the price of fuel, a 50 per cent. increase in vehicle licence fees, the effect of S.E.T. and the abolition of investment allowances on all commercial vehicles. In their Report last week, the National Board for Prices and Incomes pointed out that in three years the imposed charges on road haulage had put up their costs by 7s. in the £.
The Bill introduces two new handicaps in case the other handicaps have not been enough. The first is the new tax, and the second is quantity licensing. Estimates of the new tax vary between £30 million and £40 million as to the total effect. And what a way to announce the new tax—to say, “We are doing this for reasons which we cannot yet publish”. What a disgrace to the Minister that before the Second Reading of the Bill she has not published the Report on which she bases this tax. The whole argument is based on a Report which has been in her hands for some weeks, but which she has not made available to the House before Second Reading. One of the reasons for her failure to do so is that if the findings of the Report supported a £40 million tax, they would be more than questionable. Total expenditure on road construction and maintenance in this country, including expenditure by local authorities, was last year about £450 million. We know that from motor vehicle taxation of one sort or another the Government obtain almost three times that amount. Therefore there can be very little justification for such a drastic tax, which amounts to £15 a mile for some abnormal loads.
Consider the adverse effects this new tax will have, not to speak of the complacent way in which the Minister swept aside the adverse effects of it on our exports. “This will put up transport costs by only a few per cent.”, she said. The Government should be concerned about any increase in export costs, particularly at this time. After all, two-thirds of our exports go to the ports by road, and that is bound to be affected by this new imposition.
Then consider the development areas, especially Scotland. The Parliamentary Secretary spent most of Question Time today arguing that there was no case for Scotland and the development areas complaining about this proposal, because these lorries were wearing out the roads in Scotland just as they were all over the country; they were causing congestion and, therefore, the tax should apply in Scotland in exactly the same way as south of the Border.
This and former Governments have encouraged firms to go to the development areas. They have offered them aid, grants and subsidies. To add a tremendous tax on their communications—which is what this is; let it be remembered that some of the industries that will be most hard hit will be the heavy industries, which are situated primarily in the development regions—is ridiculous.
One of the largest projects in Scotland in the post-war period has been the establishment of big paper mills. I have seen a telegram saying that this Bill will do tremendous damage to that industry and to its future prospects in Scotland. The same can be said of the building industry. The Government have said that they are in favour of encouraging industrialised forms of building, but that will be adversely affected by the new tax since many of the components used in this form of building comprise abnormal loads.
So we have the paper industry, timber, agriculture, coal, local authorities and many other interests being adversely affected by these measures. Local authorities will be greatly affected because their vehicles will have to bear the appropriate increase which will have to be passed on to the ratepayers.
As if this tax were not enough, we have the quantity licensing system. The way in which the Minister defended this—as a great simplification and a dash for freedom—was amazing. We understand that 100,000 vehicles will be subjected to this form of licensing. That will apply if they wish to travel over 100 miles. For bulk carriers, if they wish to travel any distance at all—I refer to vehicles of 5 tons unladen weight or 16 tons gross—they will have to apply for special authorisation.
Did the Minister consider the effect of this on the motor industry? Did anyone tell her that, for example, Leylands and some other great companies have invested large sums of money to develop the articulated vehicle, which is becoming the most popular vehicle throughout Europe? Did anyone tell her that the result of her licensing system will be that whereas today firms may use the articulated vehicle of 30 tons gross—a flexible vehicle which is more manoeuvrable than the rigid type; and is 25 per cent. more efficient carrying loads—the hauliers concerned, instead of using the 30-ton articulated vehicle, which is made by British firms, will go in for two 16-ton vehicles and so completely avoid these licensing procedures? This means that instead of having one 30-ton vehicle on our roads we shall have two 16-ton vehicles. What a wonderful contribution to halting congestion! These are come of the direct results of the Minister’s interference with the proper mechanism of the development of the road vehicle.
Then consider the unique Socialist system which the Minister has thought up for other vehicles. If one wants to travel over 100 miles one must send to the licensing authority the details of the vehicle, the details of the goods and the place to which they are being sent. When the licensing authority has received those facts it will send copies of them to British Rail and the National Freight Authority. Those two organisations will then have 14 days in which to object. The basis of their objection will be that, in terms of speed, reliability and cost, they are as good as the private haulier and that therefore they should carry the load.
Who will decide how the matter should be discussed? The answer is that those authorities will not be left to judge these matters for themselves. The Minister will make Regulations on how they must be judged—and we know what those Regulations are likely to be. And if by chance at the end of this procedure they are in doubt, the Minister has laid it down that the benefit of doubt must go to the National Freight Authority and the railways. It is a remarkable thing to have in legislation in this country that, if there is a dispute between an enterprise, an individual and the State, the benefit of doubt must go to the State in all cases.
I accept that the individuals concerned will have a right of appeal. They will be able to go to the Transport Tribunal. The chairman will have a background of transport or commerce and members of the Tribunal must have knowledge of finance or economics. They will decide, and any person may be made to attend. If he does not attend he may be fined £25 for non-attendance. What a monstrous licensing system to impose. It is completely unnecessary.
Who are the friends of this proposal? Has the Minister heard of anyone who is prepared to support it? Certainly industry does not support it. Indeed, industry generally has come out violently against it. Agriculture is violently against it, and so are drivers throughout the country. The motor industry is strongly opposed to it, and, most of all, the customer is strongly opposed to it.
The customer is opposed to it, because his choice will be taken from him. Even if the management of our railways was so deficient that it was unable to market its goods and was unable to bring to the attention of potential customers its services—even if that were so, we would object; steps would have to be taken to improve its management—the Minister could adopt the Dutch system whereby the services which the railways can provide must be brought to the attention of potential customers. My hon. Friends and I believe that these proposals are dangerous and that their object is to create State management on the long distance side.
Consider the dangers of direct action. Only a few weeks ago we were faced with a possible go-slow on the railways. British Railways contacted private hauliers throughout the country, asking them to stand by and, if required, to make the necessary arrangements. When the Minister has had her way and when there is one National Freight Authority, there will be no alternative. There will be no free enterprise hauliers for her to contact to make these stand-by arrangements.
We are left with the higher costs that this will bring about, the loss of choice to the customer and an enormous extension of public ownership. The House should make no mistake about realising that this is an extension of public ownership, for in the Bill the Minister—the right hon. Lady did not mention this—has made provision for the borrowing powers worth £300 million for the National Freight Authority. Will that sum be used for acquiring road haulage firms? Certainly the Minister has always been an advocate of an authority which would be able to acquire on a large scale. British taxpayers are being asked in this Measure, a few weeks after devaluation, to find £300 million for a buying spree by the right hon. Lady to extend nationalisation still further.
We have the other nationalisation proposal which the Minister has already achieved in the Transport Holding Company. It has already made a bid—we are told a successful one—for the bus companies of the B.E.T. It was a good way of making a bid. One publishes a White Paper saying that the bus companies will be taken over by compulsory purchase—[Interruption.] One says that the routes can be taken over by compulsory purchase, and then the Transport Holding Company says, in effect, “Why wait for it to be done in this way? Sell out now”—and the bid is successful. However, the matter must come before Parliament and, although the Minister is loath to provide time for a Parliamentary debate, my hon. Friends and I will certainly need at least a day in which to debate that issue.
The £35 million to be paid for that exercise is all part of the P.T.A. concept, with the Minister saying that this is a shot in the arm for local government. I suggest that it is a shot at local government. The Minister knows—whatever references she might make to the G.L.C. —that Mr Desmond Plummer will be violently opposed to a P.T.A. for London—[Interruption.] He has made it clear that he would be. The right hon. Lady must not say that Mr. Plummer will in any way support her idea. As a result of conversations that I have had with him, I assure the House that the one thing that he wants to avoid is the Government imposing a P.T.A. on London, and I am delighted that he is succeeding.
The Minister knows the views of the local authorities. The Municipal Passenger Transport Association left no doubt at its annual conference about how strongly opposed it was to this idea. The A.M.C. in its last report stated categorically its view that any P.T.A.—bus companies and transport—should be operated only after local government reform. The A.M.C. has made its position quite clear there. What will the Minister do if she finds that wherever she wishes to impose this scheme the local authority is opposed to it? Will she then say that it is a wonderful shot in the arm for local government, in spite of the fact that none of the authorities concerned wants it? Or will she consider why they do not want it?
The reasons why the local authorities do not want it are obvious. First, fares will be substantially increased—and the right hon. Lady knows it. She may say: “The hon. Member for Worcester says that fares will be increased, but look at the capital grant I shall give”, but she knows full well that in Manchester, for example—and if she does not know this it is very remiss of her—the members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union have already said to their negotiators, “We must negotiate not only to see that when the P.T.A. is formed our members get the best wages currently being paid by any bus companies and the best conditions currently being provided by any bus company, but we must also ask for more. The Minister is boasting that these authorities are more efficient, so we, the workers, should have more of the benefit of the extra efficiency they will create.” The Minister knows, and she must be very worried about it, that there will be an enormous increase in fares as a result of this levelling-up process in wages and conditions—and further demands beyond that.
If the right hon. Lady wants examples of where this has happened she need only look at two P.T.A.S abroad—one in Ulster and one in Massachusetts. The P.T.A. in Massachusetts, almost identical in principle to that proposed by the right hon. Lady, is now the subject of study by a Senate Committee because it is doing so badly. It is making a loss of £10 million a year, and is having to increase fares by 100 per cent.
What of the precept on the rates? None of the local authorities wants to meet the railway deficit in its area. That is quite reasonable. Local authorities do not want to meet that deficit from the rates because they will have no influence on how efficiently or inefficiently the railways are being run.
What about planning? The right hon. Lady’s great boast is that this is connected with planning, but how does she argue that? A county borough that now has planning powers will have only one member on the P.T.A. A city like Worcester, a county borough, will have one member on a P.T.A. in Birmingham, dominated by members from British Transport or the Birmingham conurbation. How will that link up with the planning demands of the county borough of Worcester? The same could be said of other local authorities. They remain independent for planning, but are joined for transport.
Above all, there is the domination from Whitehall. The Minister may well look to the heavens, because no Bill has ever been put forward which gave more power to a Minister over local authority affairs than does this Bill. Let me list the powers, and if the Minister wants to deny any of them, I will gladly give way to her.
First, the Minister will designate the areas in which the P.T.A.s will operate, and local authorities will have no right to a public inquiry. That is unlike the 1947 Act. Local authorities will not be able to go to public inquiry and in any way refute the boundaries drawn by the Minister.
Second, the Minister will have the power to approve or disapprove the chairman of a P.T.A. Third, the Minister will have the power to fix the salary of the chairman. Fourth, the Minister will have complete power over the authorities’ capital expenditure. The right hon. Lady listed this as one of the powers she would not have, but if she looks at her own Bill she will know that that is untrue. The Bill categorically states that at any time the Minister can have the capital expenditure of P.T.A.s reduced, and the authorities must obey her directive on how it shall be reduced. There is no power there for local authorities.
Fifth, the Minister will have power to authorise or refuse the compulsory purchase of land by the authority. Sixth, the extent of the power to precept on the rates will be completely with the Minister. By Clause 13, the Minister is able to reduce the amount to be precepted on the rates. If the Minister is able to do that, she is able to influence the level of fares. Seventh, the Minister will lay down the form in which the accounts of an authority will be prepared, and will lay down the particulars they shall contain and the manner in which they will be compiled. All these are the powers of the Minister, who has just stood at the Dispatch Box and said the local authorities will have wonderful control over the P.T.A.s.
Let us go on—there are many more powers. About Clause 16, the Minister will take power to direct the P.T.A.s on how they will conduct the business of their subsidiaries. She will also have the power to direct the executives to discontinue the activities of their subsidiaries. No capital grants will be provided to the PT.A.s as of right, but only at the discretion of the Minister.
No investment grants for buses will be provided as of right—discretion there lies with the Minister. The right hon. Lady talked of investment allowances, but under that system every bus proprietor, municipal or otherwise, had the certain knowledge that he would get the investment allowance. The Minister knows that when the Government replaced investment allowances with investment grants, she and all her Parliamentary Secretaries went into the Division Lobby to do away with the investment allowances for buses, and then voted for a Bill on investment grants that provided no investment grants for buses. So even her last minute repentance on investment grants for buses, though pleasant, is rather sad, because it was not until the Minister had bought up the biggest private operator that she decided to give the bus operators the grant they deserve.
The Minister will be the sole arbitrator on arrangements between the P.T.A.s and British Railways. The Minister decides any dispute between the two bodies. A P.T.A. will be unable to transfer any part of its undertaking or property to a private operator without the permission of the Minister—not the permission of the local authority. No money can be raised by local authorities for the purpose of P.T.A.s without the approval of the Minister. The Minister will have complete power over what property and which employees of the local authority undertakings are transferred to the P.T.A.
Finally, just in case the Minister’s powers are not complete, in the provision for the Minister making Orders setting up the P.T.A.S., the following words are added: Any order … may contain such supplementary, incidental and consequential provision as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient. … It is nonsense for the Minister to maintain that this is in any way local authority control. It is control from Whitehall. Whereas local authorities have previously been able to run their own bus services or make their own contracts with private enterprise operators, in future all the direction and power remain with the Minister and her representatives on the P.T.A.S.
It is not just the bus companies that are referred to. We have many other nationalised proposals. As to nationalisation, I say that Clause 45 should have been a Bill on its own—and the Minister knows it. But if it had been a Bill on its own instead of being just Clause 45 of this Bill, it would have been the most controversial nationalisation Measure in British history. It would have been a Bill of 22 or 24 Clauses, and it would have been debated throughout the country as a mammoth nationalisation Measure. In fact, the famous Clause IV of the Labour Party has been put completely into the present Clause 45. That will please hon. Members opposite below the gangway and, I believe, depress the rest of the country.
Let us look at the powers given by Clause 45 to each of the authorities concerned—British Railways, Inland Waterways, National Freight Corporation, and the rest. Subsection (2) states: Each of the authorities to whom this section applies shall have power… to manufacture for sale to outside persons and to repair for outside persons, anything which the authority consider can advantageously be so manufactured or, as the case may be, repaired by the authority by reason of the fact that the authority or a subsidiary of theirs have materials or facilities for, or skill in, the manufacture or repair of that thing in connection with some existing activity of that authority or subsidiary … Hon. Members opposite cheer, but let them notice that the word is “advantageously.” The word is not “profitably” or “efficiently,” but “advantageously”—in the Minister’s view. In the Minister’s view, anything is advantageous which destroys free enterprise. We know that that is exactly how the Clause will be operated.
It continues to provide that the authorities shall have power— (b) to sell to outside persons, and for that purpose to purchase, anything which is of a kind which the authority or a subsidiary of theirs purchase in the course of some existing activity of that authority or subsidiary”. So these authorities will be able to go into the retailing business for all the commodities they buy as authorities. The Bill goes on to provide specifically for the sale of accessories for motor vehicles and for the provision of car parks by these authorities. It deletes powers not yet given to this nationalised industry.
I wonder whether the Minister mentioned to the cabin cruiser manufacturer, who, she said, was so delighted about her inland waterways provisions, that under Clause 45 in future the Inland Waterways Board will be allowed to make cabin cruisers. I wonder whether he was particularly pleased with that piece of news.
The authorities will have power to manufacture road vehicles, bodies or chassis for road vehicles or major components of road vehicles”. These powers will all be given to the nationalised industries in future. The Bill gives powers as to garages, motor accessories, repair shops and shipbuilding. The Clause provides the Government with the possibility of the largest extension of nationalisation in British history without ever again having to come to the House of Commons for legislation to do it. I defy any hon. Member to name one industry or one form of manufacturing or retailing that the Government cannot enter into as a result of Clause 45. The taxpayers’ money will be used in all the acquisitions necessary.
In total the Minister has £550 million, which she will take from the taxpayers, in borrowing powers to speed up her acquisitions as a result of the powers to be conferred by the Bill. This is the policy of a Government who are reviewing all forms of public expenditure and who are endeavouring to say that we want to improve our export position. In the whole of the Bill no consideration is given for the consumer. Fares will rise. Freight costs will rise. Choice is lost between one company and another. The economy is not considered. Public expenditure, higher costs of exports, extension of public ownership—these are the great themes of the Bill.
I do not condemn the right hon. Lady for this. She has always been a Left-Wing, extreme Socialist. Those who I do blame strongly are the Prime Minister and the new Chancellor of the Exchequer for allowing this piece of legislation to come forward at this particular time. There is nothing in the Bill which will improve confidence in Britain. What the Bill proves beyond doubt is that the Government do not intend to use devaluation as a means of changing their course. They do not mean to use it to show that they have learned their lesson from the failure of the last three years. They intend to use it to go even further with their wrong-minded and Left-wing Socialist schemes. I believe that it is an immense criticism of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Prime Minister that the major piece of legislation in this Session of Parliament following devaluation should be a Bill that puts up the cost of transport and which goes in for a savage extension of public ownership.
There is obviously to be an attempt to steam-roller the Bill through. We shall certainly see that in the time which is given to us every bad proposal—and, my word, there are many—is exposed and debated. We shall unfortunately have to show that the Government have shown by introducing the Bill that they have no intention of pursuing policies which will stimulate the sector of our economy most necessary for our exports, namely, the free enterprise sector. Indeed, the Bill illustrates that it is the Government’s intention to use the loans from abroad and the effects of devaluation to intensify their pace towards destroying a free economy. The Bill will cost Britain dearly, but the one advantage that it will have is that in the months in which it will be debated, both in Parliament and throughout the country, it will illustrate more clearly than ever the desperate need for this Government to go.