§ (9.0.) MR. ASHTON (Bedfordshire, Luton)
I should like to ask, Sir, if you are going to rule me out of order in moving the Motion in my name on the London United Electric Railways Bill (Lords), to recommit that Bill to the former Committee.
§ MR. ASHTON
said his Motion was one for the recommittal of the Piccadilly, City, and North-East London Railways Bill. He hoped it would be in order for him also to deal with the Instruction which stood in his name with regard to the same Bill.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not at liberty to move the Instruction at the same time, but he can state his reasons why he desires to recommit the Bill.
§ MR. ASHTON
said that was his position. He could hardly explain his reasons for moving to recommit without dwelling upon the instruction which would have to be moved if the recommittal were allowed by the House. His object was to enable the Committee to deal with this Bill after being obliged, in somewhat unusual circumstances, to refuse to pass the preamble. He did so because the circumstances were of a very peculiar character. But, in the first place, he wished to explain that this action was not due to any personal interest, as he had not a shilling's worth of interest in the schemes, and had never met any of the promoters. But he took an interest on public grounds, and it arose from the fact that he had served on the Joint Committee of the Houses of Lords and Commons which had approved of the scheme for a through route from North-East London to Hammersmith. He was led to believe, as a result of that Committee's investigations, that these tube railways would be of such advantage to London, that when this scheme came forward he gave it his support. When he saw there was a chance of its being lost, he thought it his duty to put a notice on the Paper, in order to save it in the public interest, should that be possible. The tube schemes were of enormous importance to the public, inasmuch as they would relieve the congestion of traffic, greatly facilitate rapid transit over the Metropolis, and tend more to the solution of the problem of the housing of the working classes than any number of houses that could be built under municipal auspices. It had been decided by the original Committee, whose object was to lay down routes and recommend the conditions on which the tube railways should be sanctioned, that no route was better than that followed by the two; Bills that had come down this session from the House of Lords. That route was from North-East London to the City, and from the City to Hammersmith. This session there was another set of Bills, proposing railways along the route; from Hammersmith to Piccadilly and the 1144 City. It became necessary to decide which were the best Bills to adopt. Amongst these were the Bills by the Morgan group—the Piccadilly, City, and North-East London Railways Bill—and another Bill by the United Electric Railways Company for a line from Hammersmith to Charing Cross. There was also a Bill promoted by the Central London Railway. For some reason, with which he was not acquainted, the United Electric Railways Company and the Morgan group decided that instead of competing before the Committee they would join hands and form a through route from Hammersmith to the northeast of London. In this form the Bill came before the House of Lords. In the end the Central London scheme was thrown out in favour of the United Electric Railways scheme, which was passed by the Lords and came down to the Commons, where there was a long Second Reading debate, the result of which was that an instruction was given to the Committee to ensure that the through route should be carried out in its integrity. The Committee sat last Tuesday week, and, to the surprise of the Morgan group, who had not the slightest intimation that their allies and partners were going to take any action against them, the promoters of the Electric Railways Company's part of the through route came forward and informed the Committee that they proposed to withdraw their Bill. The Committee, owing to their instruction to insist on the through route, were thus placed in a very awkward position. It became impossible to go on with the other Bill, for they could not give effect to the instruction to insist on a through route, and the result was that the preamble was not proved. Although they were obliged to take this action, this did not alter the fact that the Morgan group had, in his opinion, been extremely hardly used. He now came to the most unpleasant part of his task, that of dealing with the treatment meted out by the United Electric Railways promoters towards their partners, after they had entered into pledges with them and with Parliament in regard to the through route. It appeared to him that a very dishonourable transaction had taken place on the part of the promoters of 1145 the United Electric Railways. They had entered into a contract with the Morgan group for the whole of this railway; they had made an agreement with them that they would mutually promote their Bills in the joint interests of the two railways. In spite of this, and without consulting the Morgan interest, they threw over their Bill. He knew they said they could not get the Morgan group to come to an agreement. But that was because they asked the Morgan group later in the day to give them half the interest and control of the joint railway from Hammersmith to the north of London. He would ask the House to remember that they were only to find three-eighths of the capital while the Morgan group were to provide five-eighths. Mr. White, one of the promoters of the United Electric Railways Company, stated before the House of Lords Committee, when questioned, that there would be one management and a joint board of directors according to their respective interests. In spite of that the United Electric group said that they had broken off negotiations because the Morgan group would not agree to their terms. Of course they would not agree, because, since that statement was made, they had been asking more than when the arrangement was entered into between the two companies. He was afraid that was only an excuse; the fact was that they were prepared to sell what they had got if a higher bidder could be found. He had heard it said that the shares which had been sold were offered to the Morgan group, who could have bought them if they had liked, but he had it on the best authority that Messrs. Morgan were prepared to assert that since the introduction of these Bills the shares had never been offered to them at all. That was not all. The Morgan group were to share with the United Electric Railway promoters in the ownership of the line from Hammersmith to Hyde Park Corner, although the United Electric Railway only appeared as the promoters of the Bill, and they had taken advantage of the fact that their names alone appeared on the Bill to withdraw it from the cognizance of the House. He doubted whether for a longtime, if ever, such a very dirty transaction was ever done 1146 by parties coming before Parliament, and he thought, if on no other ground, the Morgan group deserved great consideration at the hands of the House from the fact that they had been shabbily treated. There was a bigger question than that. Not only had the Morgan group been badly treated, but Parliament had been tricked in this matter. It was the intention of Parliament that this through route should be made. The House of Lords was induced to pass those Bills, and after all the time and trouble that had been spent, the very instruction which was put in by the House of Commons for the sake of getting them through was absolutely being used against the Houses of Parliament for the purpose of destroying that route. Parliament had been played within the matter, and Parliament ought to show its resentment by giving the Morgan group a chance of passing their Bill through the House of Commons. As to the opposition to the Bill, it was stated in a circular issued by the Central London Railway Company that the Bill ought not to be allowed to pass now because it would mean a different scheme. But if the Committee thought fit to allow the Morgan group to continue their line to Hammersmith as he suggested in his instruction there would be no difference of scheme. It was suggested that the scheme of the Central London Company ought to have a chance. He could not agree with that. In accordance with the wishes of the Joint Committee, the Morgan line provided for a through route, whereas the Central London only proposed to run from Hammersmith to the City and entirely left out North East London and the congested districts there. Next he would like to point out that the original scheme provided for railways plus tramways, but whether the line was made by the United Electric Railways or the Morgan group the tramways would be there, and, inasmuch as the United Company's tramways were, as he was informed, made under the Light Railways Act, it was perfectly possible for the Morgan group to ask the Board of Trade to give them through fares. The opposition of the London County Council was to him a matter of considerable surprise when ho thought of the congested districts which would benefit from this line. He supposed the County Council did not wish others 1147 to make tubes because they were thinking of applying for power to make tubes themselves. Judging from the love there was in the House for the County Council, it was not very likely that that body would be able to induce the House to give them the power within a reasonable time, and it ought not therefore to put its spoke in the wheel of other people who were prepared to make tube railways for the benefit of London. That being so, why should London wait? He was by no means opposed to these railways being under the control of the Council, but that was no reason why the schemes of other people should be rejected, especially when the result would be to throw a larger monopoly into the hands of the District Company. He had no animus against that company, but even a railway was brought into a healthier condition, by competition The very fact that this Bill had been brought before Parliament had caused the District Company to lower their fares along certain routes, and was it likely that if direct competition were got rid of the fares would be kept down. By restricting the number of tube railways they were giving a very dangerous monopoly to the District Hallway. It had been stretching out its arms like an octopus over these tube railways. It had secured the control of the Brompton and Piccadilly line, the Charing Cross and Harnpstead, and the Baker Street, Waterloo, and Great Northern schemes. Was it likely that all this had been done with the idea of developing traffic in the interests of the public of London? His own impression was that in the case of; some of these contemplated railways the District Company had obtained control simply for the purpose of preventing the lines being constructed. He would give the House his reason for saying so. In 1897 they got control of the proposed Brompton and Piccadilly railway, but had done nothing with regard to it since, their object being to prevent the construction of such a line in order that no traffic might be diverted from their own system. That was no reason why they should prevent others from making other tube railways. Another objection which had been raised to the Bill was that it proposed to run two tubes under Piccadilly. He did not propose to argue that point. That was really a question for 1148 the Committee upstairs. But the House of Lords, which was generally disposed to look after the interests of property, had allowed the Bill to pass, notwithstanding the proposed two tubes under Piccadilly. He wished to meet another objection which he had heard made. It was said, "Oh, throw out this Bill; we don't want to Americanise our institutions." All he could say was that the only people who would gain by the throwing out of the Bill were the District Railway, so that if the House rejected the American. Morgan they would throw themselves into the arms of the American Yerkes. He asked, were they who had sent their capital abroad to assist the enterprises of other nations to turn round and declare, for the sake of saying "England for the English," that they should not have American capital for British enterprises for which they could not obtain British money? He thought that was a sufficient answer on this point. Why should this Bill not be dropped? In the first place because ho had made out some case for the promoters. The Morgan group had been very badly treated in respect to the Bill. The next point he made was that Parliament had already spent an enormous amount of time on these Bills. There had been a Joint Committee, and a Committee of the House of Lords had sat for seven weeks on those Bills this year. If the Bill now before the House was a good one, why should they throw it out simply for the sake of allowing a lot of other people to come in and give Parliament more trouble with other Bills next year. He came now to a far more important point, and that was the question of cost. A vast amount of money had already been spent on these Bills, and when he heard people lightly say "Oh, they have been quarrelling among themselves; throw the Bill out, and let them come again," he rather thought that they did not know what an enormous cost it had been. The Morgan group alone had spent £50,000 or £60,000 at least in the promotion of this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER. "£80,000."] The petitioners had also spent money, and if the House threw the Bill out now all these costs would be incurred again in bringing forward a new Bill next session. He asked the House to pass the Bill for the construction of the line from North-East London to the West End, binding the promoters to bring in another Bill next session for 1149 continuing the line to Hammersmith, and at the same time requiring guarantee that the first Bill should not come into operation until the second Bill had been carried. By that means the House would secure the construction of the through route.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—"That the Piccadilly, City, and North-East London Railways Bill [Lords] be re-committed to the former Committee."—(Mr. Ashton.)
§ *(9. 39.) MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said he had taken an active interest in this Bill because it would affect a portion of East London with which he was intimately connected. That district was crowded with a population whoso welfare depended upon rapid transit to the heart of the Metropolis from the outskirts of London, whether they could find cheap and healthy homes such as the proposed scheme would afford them. Of all the schemes submitted to the House in reward to the tube railway system of London none could be more beneficial than that which was presented in this Bill, even in its present truncated form. He asked the House to remember that such limitations as had been placed on the through route originally contemplated by the promoters of the Bill were due not to their action, but in some measure to the technicalities connected with the procedure of Parliament. The position which the promoters occupied in the House of Commons at present was simply that they were disqualified from proceeding by the fact that they had obeyed the decision of Parliament in regard to the route taken. He heartily hoped that they would have some guidance on the highly technical matters of procedure from his right hon. friend the Chairman of Committees. It seemed to him to be a hardship well worthy of the consideration of the House, that frontagers whose property might be affected by the provisions of Bills to be presented to Parliament in the ensuing session should he put to the expense of again defending their rights if the present Bill were rejected on account of a technicality arising from the circumstances which had been described. With regard to the question of monopoly 1150 he reminded the House that if no competitive facilities were given, the District Railway and its allies would have an absolute monopoly of all transit facilities north of the Thames. In their proposals before Parliament of the public outside there was not a vestige of a serious proposal to deal with the most congested districts of London, or to serve the outer areas by cheap fares and through routes. He felt, from his knowledge of working-class life in London, that this question did not admit of any delay. The hon. Member for the Luton Division had referred to the intention of the London County Council to promote legislation next session on the subject. Whatever that body might have in its mind one fact was certain, that before any proposals put forward by the London County Council could become law considerable time must elapse, and very possibly this tube railway question of the Metropolis might become a political party question and thus be unduly and harmfully delayed. He therefore hoped that the House would recommit the Bill so that a through route from the east and north of London to Hyde Park might be authorised this session, provided that guarantees were secured from the promoters that next session they would seek powers to carry the railway on to Hammersmith and thus give an absolute through route at through rates.
* SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDEN (Wiltshire, Chippenham)
said the carefully-prepared speech of the hon. Member for the Luton Division was one which the whole House must have recognised as a plea for the Morgan group. He wished to recall the House back to the point, namely, was it the business of this House to consider and study the internal differences and speculations of rival promoters? That was not the concern of Parliament. The Morgan scheme, which was sanctioned by Parliament three months ago, fulfilled almost to the letter the recommendations made two years ago by the Joint Committee on the question of laying down routes for London from Hammersmith through Piccadilly and the City and on to Tottenham and Palmer's Green. The present was a totally different scheme. It did not 1151 carry out the through route, neither did it carry out the through fares sanctioned in the former scheme, nor the scheme of workmen's fares embodied in that scheme. He would not labour the point further. His hon. friend opposite said that although the Bill appeared in an emasculated form, another Bill would be introduced next session. A pledge from the promoters that they would introduce a Bill next session was of no practical value from the Parliamentary point of view. Next session might see a more advantageous scheme. From that point of view, therefore, he maintained that the House would be seriously wrong in passing this session this scheme in its truncated and emasculated form. It would be absurd, too, for the House to take into account any feeling of sympathy for individual promoters, or to pay regard to the internal dissensions which had taken place and sanction a scheme at the end of October which very likely, even if the Bill were re-committed by the House, would not be approved of upstairs. He might be allowed to say a word or two on a point germane to the question now before the House. They were dealing in connection with underground locomotion in London, one of the most important social questions of the day in the Metropolis, because the solution of the locomotion question was closely wrapped up with many of the gravest and most important social problems. A Joint Committee examined this question of underground traction in 1901, and since that time cart-loads of Bills had been introduced. No fewer than twenty-six Bills dealing with tubular schemes had been introduced into Parliament this session. They represented eighty-six miles of tubes in the Metropolis, and after all the labours of the Committees of the House of Lords, and of this House, the net result had only been the sanction of four miles in three small extension Bills. He appealed urgently to the President of the Board of Trade, as the Minister responsible for this department of traction service, to take up a vigorous attitude on the question that would obviate some of the difficulties which they had had. During the past session two Committees of the House of Lords and of this House had been appointed to deal with different sets of Bills for tubular lines. There had 1152 been no communication between the two Committees, and the result had been that the Bills had been examined on their individual merits, and had not been investigated as a general scheme. He trusted that the whole of this work in regard to London locomotion would be investigated by one general expert Committee.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said that the hon. Member was going into a question which was not raised by this particular Bill.
§ * SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER
said he apologised, but he asked his right hon. friend to consider this point in view of the future, because they had not yet solved the question of London locomotion. In conclusion he would say that, looking, at the matter from every point of view, it was the bounden duty of the House not to listen to the re-committal of the Bill.
§ (10.5.) MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said that, as Chairman of the District Railway, he would not vote in a division if it were taken, but having a special knowledge of the subject under discussion he might be permitted to refer to one or two points affecting the railways concerned, in consequence of the statements made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. In the first place, the District Company had no control whatever over the Brompton and Piccadilly Railway, the Charing Cross, Euston, and Hampstead Railway the Great Northern and Strand Railway and the Baker Street-Waterloo line. The only connection between these undertakings was that certain parties holding a large interest in the District Railway were also the chief proprietors in the four railways he had named. So far as regards the travelling public of London they were anxious to work; these railways in unison, and to avoid, the very thing which had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Shoreditch as a disadvantage. The effect of these railways being practically under one control, and working in alliance, was that money which otherwise would be spent in duplicating railways would now be saved. For example, the capital of such a railway as that from Charing Cross to Victoria could be saved, and 1153 usefully expended in providing accommodation in other parts of London, where at present there was no adequate provision of communication. He would like to correct his hon. friend the Member for Luton in his statement that nothing had been done with reference to the Brompton and Piccadilly Railway and allied lines. That was an absolute and unpardonable error. All the four railways were being rapidly pushed on, and one of them had been in active progress for more than a year. Upwards of a million had been expended on them, the contracts were let, and the land notices had all been served. It was a mistake for his hon. friend to say that these railways were block lines, or were promoted as such.
§ MR. ASHTON
said if he had stated that nothing had been done on the Brompton and Piccadilly Railway he certainly did make an incorrect statement, because he was aware that the notices had already been served. What he meant to say was that nothing had been done until quite recent times, which, he believed, was a correct statement.
§ * MR. PERKS
said that his hon. friend must know that it was a very common thing indeed for a railway company to have statutory powers for two, three, or even four years before it saw fit to exercise them and to start work. Such indeed was the case with the Central London Railway. If the Motion was adopted it would tie the hands of the Committee, and would serve very little the purposes of the promoters. Both on the question of procedure, and of fairness to the other railway companies, he hoped the House would not listen to the proposal to re-commit the Bill. It was perfectly true that as a result of the withdrawal of the Tramway Company's Railway Bill and the acquisition of a large interest in the Tramways Company by parties interested in the District Railway and allied lines, new relations of great public importance were opened up between the District Railway Company and the tramways in the West of London. But that was a great advantage to the public as well as to the proprietors of both the Tramways and the Railway Company. It obviated the unnecessary 1154 duplication of capital, and it provided the immediate securing of through rates between the tramways and the railways by routes which otherwise would not have been available to the travelling public for some years to come. It was also important that the House should know that it was the intention of the District Railway Company, acting in unison with some of the other companies, to submit to Parliament next session a scheme which would give a second route from Hammersmith to the City. This would involve an expenditure, not of six or seven millions sterling, but of one and a half million or thereabouts, and would accomplish all the, results of the more costly scheme. He would say nothing at all with reference to the reflections which had been passed on the District Railway Company, except that they were now in the midst of the work of converting1 the much-abused District Railway into an electric railway, and, for this purpose, they had raised two and a half millions. It would be running as an electric railway fifteen months hence, while six miles would be open at the end of January next. It would, therefore, be extremely hard to allow a competing route to come into the field under these new conditions until the existing and authorised companies had proved inefficient.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER, Cumberland, Penrith)
said that the promoters of the Bill came and asked Parliament to do something which he would not say was unprecedented, but was unusual. When a Committee upstairs had found the preamble of a Bill not proved, it was a very unusual thing to re-commit that Bill. Ho said it was not unprecedented because it had been done in the early part of this session, but the promoters had to make out a very strong case for the adoption of that course. Could it be said that in the present case the promoters had made out a strong case? [Cries of "No."] He was extremely sorry for the promoters, because if he might express his own private opinion he thought that they had been very badly used. But not by the House of Commons or by Parliament. Their enemies were of their own household. 1155 The House of Commons had nothing to blame themselves for, or to reproach themselves with. The Committee had done the only thing they possibly could do, bearing in mind the instruction they had got from this House. He thought that the union of the two schemes had been forced on the promoters by the other House, but for reasons which he need not go into they were unable to carry the whole scheme out. That being so, whatever sympathy they might feel for the promoters, he did not think that the House could be fairly asked now to recommit the Bill. He felt that there would be great difficulty in making the passage of this Bill dependent on the passage of the other Bill; and, for all these reasons he thought it would be impossible to ask the House to recommit the Bill. He gave that advice to the House with great regret, because it meant that the solution of the great difficulty of London traffic would be once more delayed; and also because next session they would have to go through again all that mass of work which had been imposed on the Committee, and would again have to wade through all these schemes in order to find the best scheme. It was, therefore, with extreme regret that he asked the House not to accept the Motion.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
said there was one point of view in favour of the Motion which had not yet been put to the House. A great many people in the East End of London were anxious that the Bill should go through. They looked upon it, not from the point of view of the promoters at all, but from the point of view of the traffic of London. The scheme formed part of the through route through London, and there was no reason why it should not be welded on to another scheme, which would satisfy the whole of London. He had been requested by the Borough Councils of Hackney and Stoke Newington to lay that view before the House.
§ * SIR LEWIS M'IVER (Edinburgh, W.)
said the discussion had been so ably dealt with by hon. Members, that he felt that the customary speech from the Chairman of the Committee was practically supererogatory. As it would be his 1156 bounden duty to reconsider the Bill if it were recommitted, he would speak on the Motion with great restraint. There were two points which he wished to put before the House. Speaking as a private Member he thought that, having regard to the very unsavoury details of the transaction, a scandal which had probably no precedent in the annals of their committee work upstairs, it beloved the House to take care that there was no suspicion upon it of taking any part in such a quarrel. As the Chairman of the Committee, he thought that if this Motion were passed there would be infinite difficulty in giving effect to the wishes of the House. With the greatest sympathy with this big scheme, which had been wrecked by a Stock Exchange ramp, with the feeling that the House should not allow the public interest to be made a counter in a game of this sort—for it was a game in which it was proposed to make the London roads pawns on the chequer board of Wall Street—and with sympathy with the people who were wronged and who ought to have had more sense than to be associated with people who could wrong them in such a manner, it seemed to him that they would not be able within the rules of the House to satisfy the laudable desires of the hon. Member who had fairly and correctly stated the case to the House. Speaking again as a private Member, he advocated the relegation of the whole matter to next session, when they could start with a clean slate, remembering that when two of a trade fell out perhaps the London County Council might come by its own.
§ MR. ASHTON
said that after the opinion which had been expressed the Chairman of Committees, and also by the Chairman of Committee, he would ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.