§ (BY ORDER).
§ Order for the Second Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be now read a second time.
§ *MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
said the time had more than arrived when sleeping accommodation should be provided for third-class passengers by all the railway companies where it was provided for first-class passengers. He was satisfied from personal observation that it would be quite possible to construct third-class sleeping carriages for the long journeys to the north in such a manner as to occupy only about half of the space now given to first-class passengers. If that could be done, the companies had no reason to complain of the request now being made, because such an arrangement would harmonise with the general conditions on which fares were fixed, the first-class fares being generally double the third-class fares. He represented a part of Scotland which was some 700 or 800 miles from London, and he was continually receiving complaints, especially from people who had to travel for business purposes, in regard to the want of third-class sleeping accommodation. He had spoken to railway managers and others on this subject, and the reply was, "Oh, these sleeping carriages, even the the first class, do not pay us." He was aware that the first-class passenger traffic, except the suburban traffic, did not pay, but it took the railway companies fifty years to find out that the first-class passengers were travelling at the expense of the third-class passengers. Experience had shown that the better the third-class passengers were treated the more traffic the railway companies had. He did not wish that Railway Bills should be thrown out because the companies did not provide third-class sleeping accommodation, but he hoped the companies would take this matter into serious consideration. He acknowledged that some assistance had already 986 been given by the Board of Trade, and he would be pleased if they would take some stronger step to compel the companies to do what was right to all classes. The railway companies should remember that the third-class passengers formed the bulk of the people who travelled, and that it was from them the profits were received. The Midland Company had in the past been in advance of other companies in introducing reforms, and he hoped that they would show a good example in this matter.
§ *MR. SMEATON (Stirlingshire)
urged that the Board of Trade should put pressure on the railway companies to provide third-class sleeping carriages. The Department, in tendering advice to the railway companies, might suggest that they should consult the hon. Member for Sutherland shire who had made the subject of third-class sleeping accommodation a special study; in fact although it would be a loss to this House, he would advise the companies to engage the hon. Member as their professional adviser in the construction of the accommodation required; as he seemed to have a patent for the purpose in his pocket.
§ MR. SEDDON (Lancashire, Newton)
said that if the railway companies did not soon yield on this point their Bills would be opposed. He thought the railway companies had treated the third class passengers very unfairly. They should have considered the subject more sympathetically than they had done. He was convinced that the the railway companies would be studying their own interest if they provided third-class sleeping carriages. The present conditions were particularly hard upon women and children who travelled at night. At stopping places the doors were opened and the draught which came in could not be in the interest of the health of the travellers.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (MR. KEARLEY, Devonport)
said the Board of Trade always endeavoured to induce the railway companies to supply third-class sleeping accommodation, and personally he believed they would not find it a losing matter. Perhaps his hon. friend the 987 Member for Sutherland would introduce a Bill and take the sense of the House on the subject.
§ *MR. MORTON
I have tried for years to get a place for a Bill in the ballot and have always failed.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.
§ *MR. BRUNNER (Lancashire, Leigh)
moved that it be an instruction to the Committee to omit Clause 30 and any other references to the abandonment of a portion of the Cromford Canal. He said there was an important question of principle involved in Clause 30. The Midland Railway Company proposed to obtain statutory power to close Butterley Tunnel and to isolate eight and a quarter miles of Cromford Canal, together with a largo reservoir. The canal was in Derbyshire, and if this part of it were isolated a certain number of factories, quarries, and mines would be cut off from the canal system of the country. It was most important also to bear in mind that the water from the Butterley reservoir would be cut off from the canals which joined lower down. The railway company proposed to construct certain conduits for the water. The Midland Railway Company acquired the Cromford Canal in 1870 by buying up the Matlock Railway Company, who were the owners of the canal, and in so doing they undertook a statutory obligation to keep the canal in repair. The tunnel had subsided by reason of coalmining operations underneath. The Midland Railway Company had power to buy the coal, and that power had been partly but not fully exercised. The Board of Trade sent down an inspector recently to report on the state of the canal, and also whether the traffic conditions justified the closing of the tunnel. He reported that the canal was not in a very good condition. The report also stated that the traffic conditions were such as to justify the company in endeavouring to get statutory 988 power to close the canal. He was sorry the terms of reference did not permit the inspector to inquire into the question how that state of things had come about. He would tell the House why the traffic had so much diminished. He asserted that the railway company had killed the traffic on the canal The tunnel was closed from 1889 to 1893, and it was also closed from 1900. It was perfectly obvious that no one would erect factories, or wharves, or build boats to be put on a canal where the conditions were so risky. Neither had the railway company adopted modern methods for the working of the canal. The figures in the Board of Trade inspector's report showed how the traffic on the canal had been killed since it came into possession of the railway company. For each of the three years previous to 1870 the average tonnage was 158,000 tons, while for the last three years it was only 43,000 tons. The House would want to know why the railway company had been permitted to keep the tunnel closed since 1900. It would be obvious to the House that the small trader could not fight the great railway companies, and further, the railway company had carried at low rates for the traders and done carting free. He had read the Bill and he did not see any proposal to continue to cart the traders goods free, The question of the water was a most important one. The railway company had no property in the water of the canal; the water used to flow through the tunnel, and it was vital to the existence of the Erewash and Nottingham Canals which joined it at the east. It was proposed by the Bill to construct conduits, but he was informed by the people who wanted the water that the proposal was utterly inadequate. The Railway Company in addition used for their own purposes and sold the water which ought to go down the canal. The railway company simply first killed the traffic and then neglected the ordinary repairs, so that the condition went from bad to worse; they were very astute in the matter. Ho should have done all this if he had been the manager of the railway company, but he did not think the House ought to buck him up in his conduct. Was the railway company to be permitted to allow this tunnel to remain in its present condition simply because it would cost a lot of money to put it right? The company, having 989 bought the Matlock Railway and the Cromford Canal, ought not to be allowed to take all the profit, out of the railway without having any of the liabilities with regard to the canal. There was another important consideration. At the present time there was a Royal Commission sitting on the question of the canals and waterways of the country, and in view of that fact he thought the conduct of the company was little short of impudent. The canal was not important in itself, but it was an important feeder, and reached a part of the country that was well situated for constructing reservoirs. If it were closed important gathering grounds for water would be cut off. For those reasons he hoped the House would pass the instruction which stood in his name, and which he begged to move.
§ *MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
seconded. He said it was impossible to consider the general question of waterways without being convinced that for some cause or other water traffic and canal business had been skilfully encouraged abroad and skilfully and scientifically discouraged and almost killed here. There was no secret about the cause and history of it. Ostensibly with the idea of running canal barges as adjuncts to trucks on railways, but really with the intention of eventually closing canals and removing from railway trucks the competition of canal barges, canals had been acquired by railway companies in a most daring manner. Railway companies in the past had come before the country and assented to the upkeep of the canals, and in this case the bargain was that the railway company should be allowed to buy the length of private railway and the canal if they kept the canal and the works of the canal in good working order and condition. They were to preserve the supply of water and keep the canal open to all traffic and promote the proper interests of traffic along the canal which was the central link in the canal system of the country. Owing to the stoppage in the tunnel, the coal traffic and the traffic of other canals had been adversely affected. The company thus, in allowing their own property to be damaged, had seriously damaged other people. He was there on behalf of the Nottingham Corporation to second the Motion chat it should be an instruction to 990 the Committee to delete from the Bill the clause dealing with the Cromford Canal. The Midland Railway Company were putting up a mere pretext to abandon it. The opponents did not want to damage the prospects of this Bill, but he trusted that that House would wait until they had the report of the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways before passing this clause, so that they could see whether that body was in favour of keeping open or closing the canal. If that course were adopted the Midland Railway Company could come to the House with a Bill later to insert in their statutes this clause which it was now proposed to delete.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an instruction to the Committee to omit Clause 30 and any other references to the abandonment of a portion of the Cromford Canal."— (Mr. Brunner.)
§ *SIR E. BOYLE (Taunton)
appealed to the House to allow the Bill to go forward so that it could go upstairs and be decided on its merits. If anything was done to-stop the Bill here the rights of the case would never be known. One hon. Member had said that the canal was subsiding owing to the coal having been extracted, and suggested that the railway company should buy the coal themselves, which according to the first speaker had already been consumed. The company's proposals were carefully explained to the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways, and that Commission decided to leave the-matter to the Board of Trade, and the latter had held an inquiry, and generally concurred in the application now made. In 1890 part of the tunnel fell in and it took four years to repair it; but notwithstanding the repairs, and that the greatest precautions were taken, in 1894 the tunnel fell in again. He did not think under those circumstances that this was a matter upon which any company should be compelled to lay out any great sum of money. The canal would cost. £250,000, properly to rebuild and repair and was not worth the trouble and expense. Although there were nine petitions against the Bill in the Upper House, and after a full inquiry the House of Lords passed it. He hoped the hon. Member would not persist in stopping 991 an inquiry, and he for one should vote against any proposal to do so.
§ SIR MAURICE LEVY (Leicestershire, Loughborough)
hoped the instruction would be carried. The hon. Member who had just sat down had said that it was very difficult to put this canal into proper working order, and that it took four years to repair when the tunnel fell in in 1890, but he omitted to state that the cost was less than £7,500. It took four years because the company were unwilling to carry out their statutory obligations; now, because the canal was not a financial success they asked to be relieved of their obligations altogether. The report of the committee showed that the railway company had done everything to discourage the canal traffic. When they took over the canal the traffic was 140,000 tons per annum, and it was now only 30,000 to 40,000 tons. When the company took over the canal statutory obligations were imposed upon them to keep sufficient water in the canal to maintain it in a navigable condition. This they had not done, and hence traffic was diverted from the canals. The borough of Loughborough had for years sent the residuals from their gasworks by canal, and if the Cromford Tunnel were closed and the railway company absolved from keeping the canal open for traffic, it would cost the ratepayers of Loughborough £100 a year for carting the residuals from their gas works.
§ *MR. CROSSLEY (Cheshire, Altrincham)
thought it would be a dangerous precedent if Parliament allowed this railway to get out of its engagements in the manner proposed. Parliament made a great mistake when it allowed the railways to buy up and control so many canals. They controlled nearly one-third of the canal system of the country, and their control was very much to the disadvantage of the canals. This company was bound to maintain this canal, and why it should be allowed to get out of that obligation he did not know. It had neglected its duty, and he thought it had done so wilfully. Far worse expenditure had taken place in regard to other canals, where there was a subsidence of thirty feet, but still they had been built up. If they allowed this canal to be closed and the water supply cut off, they would soon have the Great Northern 992 Railway wanting to close the Nottingham Canal, and instead of extending our canal system as we ought, we should find it was being curtailed. If this canal was allowed to be cut in two in the way proposed the millowners and quarry-owners would be left at the mercy of the railway company. In one case it had already so operated that a quarry-owner had lost a contract for the supply of stone owing to the high rates charged by the railway company, with the result that the order for the stone went to Norway. It was to the advantage of the railway companies to prevent canal traffic going on in order to get that traffic on to their own lines. Canal traffic was far cheaper and of great advantage to the country, and anyone conversant with the canal system on the Continent would never consent to any further cutting down of the canal system in this country. It seemed to him a bold stroke on the part of the Midland Railway Company to appeal to Parliament to close a canal while the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways was inquiring into the advisability of reconstruction and extension. He hoped the House would delete Clause 30.
§ *MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
said that no attempt had been made to prevent this Bill from going upstairs, hon. Members having very wisely decided to fight the question on one clause and allow the remainder of the Bill to go up in any case. There was a great principle involved in the question of the waterways and canals of this country, and the House ought to protest now against their being destroyed although they had not done so in the past. Ever since 1851 the policy of the railways had been to obtain possession of and to close the canals of the country and to prevent competition. Goods could be carried much more cheaply by water than by any other method, although railways could carry them faster, and it ought to be the policy of the House to keep these waterways open for the use and benefit of the trade and the people. He had expected to hear someone who represented the railway company state what the company was prepared to do for the public in return for Parliament allowing them to get out of this obligation, but no offer whatever had been made, although the company wished to be relieved of a great expenditure which 993 they undertook for a concession they got from Parliament. He trusted under the circumstances that the House would eliminate the clause.
§ *MR. KEARLEY
said the question before the House was whether the Midland Railway Company should be compelled to maintain this canal from end to end. At about the middle of the canal there was a tunnel a mile and three-quarters in length, and owing to a subsidence it had fallen in, and at this point the traffic was absolutely blocked. In other places the water in the canal was no longer at its ordinary level. It was not denied by the company that they were under statutory obligations to maintain the canal and keep it open for navigation during its entire length. But at intervals since 1889 the canal at this part had been closed owing to the subsidences which had taken place, and since 1900 the tunnel had been entirely closed. Apart from this, the company had showed no particular anxiety to keep the other portions of the canal open for navigation; they had neglected to keep up their reservoirs: and had allowed one to fall to one-third of its natural capacity. In this connection repeated complaints had been made to the Board of Trade, pointing out the serious manner in which trade was handicapped, and the Board of Trade took advantage of certain powers they possessed. Under the Railway and Canal Traffic Act they appointed Sir William Matthews to make an investigation, and had received a Report from him that had been presented to the House. He thought this question ought to be very carefully considered, and the Board of Trade had given it the most careful consideration. They could not ignore the fact that there was a most important Royal Commission sitting at the present moment to inquire into the question of waterways and canals which ran between them. It so happened that this canal constituted a very important part of the canal system of the country, and though only fifteen miles in length, it was a feeder to a system which ran to Nottingham, Derby, and the Humber. Having regard to all these considerations, the Board of Trade did not propose to offer any objection to the acceptance of this instruction. 994 Question put, and agreed to and ordered accordingly.
§ Ordered, That, in the ease of the Midland Railway Bill [Lords], Standing Orders 82, 211, 236, and 237 be suspended, and that the Committee of Selection have leave to appoint the Committee on the Bill to sit and proceed upon Wednesday next. —(The Chairman-of Ways and Means.)