§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I think it will be well to review the position, the reasons that led up to the Bill, and to the undertaking of the Government. Hon. Members remember very well the sudden and serious strike on the railway systems of Great Britain in August of 1911. It was such as almost to cause a complete cessation of the traffic on those railways. The Government intervened in order, if possible, to bring about a settlement, and to put an end to a position which, not only on national, but at that time on international grounds, was a very serious one indeed.
I will not go through the various stages of the negotiations which took place. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself on behalf of the Government, which had intervened, invited a settlement by bringing together the two parties. A deadlock had ensued on the question of so-called "recognition," and that deadlock had become very acute. We sought to see whether the representatives of the companies would meet the representatives of the men. There was also the point as to how far the question of recognition would be accentuated by the result of the inquiry of the Royal Commission which Ave were urging on both sides.
In addition to that the question arose— and a very serious one it was to the railway companies—as to how far, if they accepted the Royal Commission, and what it might entail, it would involve increased cost to the railway companies. The representatives of the railway companies pointed out that the inquiry proposed would necessarily lead to an extension of the system of Conciliation Boards, and that that inevitably would lead to increased cost. They pointed out that there was at the present time a legal doubt as to what extent such increased cost, due to the improved conditions of labour, would be held to be a valid justification for an increase of the rates by the Railway and Canal Commissioners. They insisted that, if on national and international grounds, we put pressure upon them to accept our proposals, they were entitled to ask that this matter should be cleared up.
1572 That appeared to the Government, and those who represented the Government, to be a reasonable demand in itself, and especially so under the circumstances of the case. We were pressing the railway companies very hard to agree to proposals very distasteful to them in many ways, and to accept also a position which would undoubtedly lead to increased expenditure on their part. It seemed fair to us that if we forced the companies to comply with that pressure, that that should be accompanied by a recognition of their moral right to recoup themselves, to a certain extent, for that engagement.
That is how the undertaking of the Government arose. The Government having given this undertaking, the representatives of the companies thereupon agreed with the representatives of the men to accept to the full any recommendations made by the Royal Commission, even though they might involve recognition, and even although pecuniary liabilities might be thereby involved. The result of that acceptance was that the leaders of the parties met on very friendly terms, an agreement was come to, the strike was brought to an end, and a grave calamity averted. The undertaking of the Government was publicly announced at the same time as the terms of the agreement appeared. That undertaking, I think, at that time was accepted by the public as a whole and by the country as fair and satisfactory. Undoubtedly the end of the strike was a great relief to the public and the country. This undertaking contributed materially to the ending of the strike.
The intervention of the Government, it should be recollected, was not only in the interest of the country itself, but primarily in the interest of the traders, for it was enormously to their interest that the strike should be brought to a speedy conclusion. I feel very confident if the proposal which I am now making to the House by means of this Bill had been made at that time, with all the circumstances of the case fresh in the minds of the country, there would have been a unanimous support to the proposals now being made.
The undertaking was to the following effect:—The Government will propose to Parliament next Session—This was August, 1911—legislation providing that an increase in the cost of labour due to the improvement of conditions for the 1573 staff, would be a valid justification for a reasonable general increase of charges within the legal maxima, if challenged under the Act of 1894,The Government, having given that undertaking, are honourably bound to carry it out at whatever cost to themselves.
I should like at once to state two things and emphatically. In the first place, there has never been any question as to the Government not redeeming their pledge. In the second place, I have heard and seen it stated that the railway companies concerned threatened the Government that if they did not carry out their undertaking the concessions given to the men would be withdrawn. There is no truth in that statement. As regards the delay that has undoubtedly taken place in fulfilling the engagement of the Government, there is a very simple explanation. The undertaking having been given, the question arose as to the best method of carrying it out. It so happened that before the strike, and apart altogether from any undertaking of the Government, we at the Board of Trade had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to introduce a Bill dealing with various railway matters, some of them in connection with a railway conference which had taken place a little time before, some in connection with the Report of the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Russell Rea) in reference to amalgamations and combinations and so on. That Bill was largely in draft before this strike took place. The natural course appeared, therefore, to insert the undertaking of the Government as a Clause of that Bill. That Bill, I may point out, dealt with a large number of matters and met a considerable number of grievances on the part of the traders. Unfortunately, as I think, that Bill met with the strenuous and active opposition of some of the representatives of the traders here and outside and of some of the chambers of commerce and others.
It became clear after a time that the Bill could not be persevered in without an expenditure of time which we were unable to give to it during that Session. Personally, I very much regret the fact that I could not proceed with that Bill. I believe that that Bill, as a whole, would have been, if it had been allowed proper consideration and passed, decidedly advantageous to the traders. They would have had the opportunity in Committee of raising a discus- 1574 sion, and obtaining a decision, on a large number of questions in which they are seriously interested. The traders would not have the Bill. They killed the Bill, and with it what was then Clause 2 of the Bill.
The position, therefore, became altered. It was clear that the hope of carrying a Bill was waning. I think in these matters I possess a somewhat sanguine temperament, hoping by dint of conversation and in other ways to assist towards carrying Bills; and I therefore hoped against hope perhaps somewhat too long. At all events, as soon as it became clear that that Bill was dead, and would have to be withdrawn, it also became clear that the Government must carry out their undertaking to do what they were honourably bound to do in some other way. The only method open to them under the circumstances was to introduce a one-Clause Bill dealing with their undertaking and that undertaking alone. That is the Bill of which I am now-moving the Second Reading. We cannot in this Bill deal with the various questions in which the traders and others are, interested. We shall have to deal with those at some future time in another Bill.
I apologise to the House for what is a rather long preface to what is, after all, a comparatively small point, and one which, in my opinion, has been considerably exaggerated, misunderstood, and in some ways misinterpreted. I have read to the House the undertaking which the Government gave. It was:—The Government will propose to Parliament next-Session legislation providing that an increase in the cost of labour due to the improvement of conditions for the staff would he a valid justification for the reasonable increase of charges …Clause 2 of the original Bill was not perhaps very happily worded, but the present. Bill of one Clause, which takes the place of that Clause 2, is at all events simple and clear. The traders undoubtedly were alarmed, under, I think, considerable misunderstanding as to the character of the old Clause of the original Bill. Undoubtedly some were alarmed lest the protection they have enjoyed under Section? of the Act of 1894 against arbitrary increase of the rates would, under that Clause, be swept away or be considerably weakened. They were also alarmed lest the railway companies, under that Clause, would have a free hand without challenge to impose a rise in rates at their own sweet will. Some of them were also fearful even that the maximum rates would disappear under the Bill. There was really no foundation for any of those fears in regard to that 1575 Clause. Those fears were founded on a misconception of the old Clause. That Bill has been displaced by the new Clause which I am asking the House to accept.
What does this Clause do? What is the defect in the law which the railway companies are anxious should be removed? That is a very technical question, and rather difficult, I am afraid, to make clear to hon. Members who have not given these particular points of this particular question their active consideration. I must, in the first instance, recall the peculiar position in which the railway companies stand if they wish to make any increase of their charges, and I shall endeavour to explain to the House the precise position of the proposals of the Bill in reference to that matter. The existing law is, broadly, that railway rates are limited by certain maxima fixed by Act of Parliament, within which maxima the actual rates can be fixed by the railway companies themselves, but only fixed subject to this qualification, that if the rate is raised that increase can be challenged before the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and in that event the company must justify it as a reasonable increase. If they are unable so to justify it the increase is not allowed by the Commissioners. That is to say the railway companies, alone of any commercial industry, are both limited in their charges by their fixed maxima, and at the same time they are subject to the liability of proving the reasonableness of any increase of charge even within the statutory maxima fixed by Parliament.
It was not unnatural therefore that the railway companies should feel that these special disabilities placed upon them operated somewhat harshly, especially at times like these when they see other industries, commercial industries, and others, recouping themselves for the increased cost of labour in a way not open to themselves. But the companies are not asking, and have not suggested to us, that they should be freed from either of these disabilities, namely, the maximum on the one hand, and the position of being open to challenge to see whether the rise is right and reasonable, on the other. What they are asking is, that, as legal doubts do exist in reference to the increase of rates due to increased cost of labour, they should be removed. The position is this: The Act of 1894, to which I have referred, while throwing on the railway companies the onus of 1576 having to prove the reasonableness of any increase in charges of which complaint may be made, gives no indication of the circumstances which should be taken into account by the Court in deciding in a particular case whether the increases complained of are reasonable or not. It has been well established by the action of the Railway and Canal Commissioners that they would regard an increase in the cost of working a particular class of traffic as a valid justification for a corresponding advance in the rates charged for its conveyance, unless indeed there is some special reason to the contrary, such as, for example, the likelihood of the increased cost being only temporary and not of a permanent character. There is, however, some doubt as to how far a general increase, apart from a particular increase, in the cost of working a railway would of itself justify advances in particular rates; how far an increase due to a general increase of cost can be allocated to particular traffic. Some of the decided cases, especially the earlier ones, have lent colour to the view that it is necessary to show that there has been an increased cost of working the particular traffic on which the rates have been raised. At the same time, in some of the more important cases which have been lately decided, an increase of working expenditure due to increase of wages for the men and other causes has been one of the important grounds on which the companies have claimed justification for their action, and in this claim they have frequently proved successful.
There is still, however, considerable doubt as to how far a general increased cost of working due to an actual increased cost of labour—an important element" in increased working cost and one which is generally permanent and not temporary—how far this would be considered by the Railway Commissioners as a justification for an increase in a particular rate. The position, therefore, is that there is this doubt and expense, uncertainty and difficulty confronting the railway companies in these circumstances if they raise the rate in order to meet the increase due to improved conditions of labour, which may not unnaturally deter the companies from bringing into force improved conditions which they appreciate as justifiable, but the burden of which they cannot wholly afford to bear.
The sole object of this Bill is to remove that doubt, and as regards the 1577 Railway and the Canal Commissioners to put the increased general cost arising from improved conditions of labour generally on the same basis as any increased cost arising from and directly affecting any particular branch of traffic. I can hardly hope I have made the matter quite clear to the House, because, as I say, it is a technical matter. The real difference is to allow a general increase of cost due to increased cost of labour which absolutely cannot be allocated down in detail to any particular class of traffic—that that should be allowed as a justification for the increase of a rate, although it cannot be shown in that particular case that the absolute amount allocated to that particular traffic represents the increased cost of handling of that traffic in question.
The Bill will enable the Railway and Canal Commissioners, when they are asked to adjudicate on a particular increase in rate which the company proves to be part of a bond fidescheme for meeting the cost of improved wages and conditions, to look at the problem as a whole; and if the railway company can prove that the increase in rates on the whole are reasonable in view of a general increase in wages, then any particular increase of rates which the company can prove to be not unreasonably high in comparison with the increases of other rates, will be considered to be justified under the Bill.
That is the position. How are we meeting it under the Bill? It will be seen by hon. Members, if they are good enough to examine the Bill as it stands, that before the railway company can utilise its provisions to justify an increased charge, they must absolutely prove—and the onus is entirely upon them —that the increased charge has in fact been made under the circumstances contemplated in the Government undertaking. In the first place they must, if challenged, show that owing to an improvement in the conditions of employment—shorter hours and other matters— their labour is actually dearer than it was before; that is to say, that it is costing them more in proportion to the work done. This point has been much misunderstood in some quarters. It will not be enough for the company under this Bill to show merely that they had raised wages or reduced hours; they must prove that they are actually in the aggregate paying a larger amount than before for work done, and in so far as simultaneously or in con- 1578 sequence, they are able to diminish the number of their employés, that would be taken as a set-off to the increased cost to them.
Secondly, the company must then prove that the whole of the increases in charges which have been made are made solely in order to meet this rise in the cost. Further, the company must prove that these increased charges are not as a whole more than are reasonably required to meet the additional cost. For instance—and this is an important point which I should like to emphasise—it is common knowledge that the railway companies have already made certain increases since August, 1911, in season-tickets, excursion tickets, week-end tickets, and in some cases, tickets generally; and it has been suggested that they have thereby to a certain extent reimbursed themselves for the improvements they have made in the conditions of employment of their staff. In our view the Bill is so drawn that increases which have taken place in passenger fares since August, 1911, would be properly taken into account in estimating what was really required in order to meet the improved conditions of labour, and that will no doubt be considered as a set-off against the increased cost which the railways incur.
Finally—and I would ask the traders especially to note this point, for it is a point in the old Clause upon which there was a good deal of comment, and which I undertook to consider if the Bill had gone further, and to see how far I could meet it—the company must show, in regard to any increase of rates that is challenged, that it has not concentrated an unreasonable proportion of the total increase in the charges on the particular increased rate of which complaint is made—that is to say, they are not putting an unreasonable amount on any particular branch of traffic. It is only if the railway company emerge successful from this four-fold ordeal which I have detailed that the Railway Commissioners will consider they have justified their position entitling them to obtain the increased rate.
It will thus be seen, in the first place, that no additional or hitherto nonexistent power to enlarge or increase a rate is conferred upon the railway company, and the maximum is in no way affected. Secondly, it is clear the Bill leaves on the railway company the entire burden of proof for a justification of the rise, and the burden also of proof that both. 1579 the amount and the distribution of the increase is reasonable. Further, though the Bill dates, and properly dates, back to August, 1911, it will not be retrospective or bring into account any arrears of rates—that is to say, any increase of rates due to the improved conditions of labour that may be made under the Bill will be calculated only on the basis of meeting the increased cost of working the railway after the Bill comes into operation as compared to August, 1911. The companies will not be able under the Bill to claim any arrear of burden for improved conditions of labour up to that period.
Perhaps the House will allow me to recapitulate what I have said in regard to the position of railway companies, and what they will have to do if they avail themselves of this Bill. In the first place, the sole possibility of justification for an increase of rates under the Bill is an actual and operative improvement in the conditions of the employment of the staff. Secondly, that there is, and must be, a net increase in the cost of labour: an actual increase on the labour bill, and due, not to normal increase of work, but to improved conditions of the staff itself. And, thirdly, that the safeguards of Section 1 of the Act of 1894 are neither weakened nor diminished, and that the onus of proof is left upon the railway companies.
I hope I have also shown that the proposal in itself is a fair and just one, and especially justifiable in the circumstances and under the conditions on which the undertaking was given. Indeed, as far as I am aware, the equity of the principle involved was never really contested by the various representative deputations which I saw from lime to time in connection with the first Bill. It was admitted on all hands. Objection was taken, not to the principle, but to the method in which it was thought that that principle was going to be carried out under Clause 2, of which it was said that it went far beyond the undertaking of the Government to the detriment of the trader. This cannot, I think, be justifiably alleged in reference to the Bill now before the House, which I think does accurately carry out the undertaking of the Government in the letter and in the spirit, and with, I think, adequate protection for the traders themselves.
One argument, which I have heard used I must deal with, and it is that improvements which have been made in the condi- 1580 tions of labour by the various railway companies, or by some of them since August, 1911, under the Conciliation Boards are not adequate. I am not going to give an opinion upon that matter; but that seems to me to be a very inadequate argument for opposing this Bill. A company cannot benefit under this Bill by one halfpenny except to the extent of its actual improvements in the conditions of labour. If they have improved the conditions of labour to the extent of £10 they can only get back that, or part of it. If they have improved the conditions of labour to the extent of £100,000 they can get that back, or a certain proportion of the increased cost. One of the objects of the Bill is to encourage and enable railway companies to improve the conditions of labour in their service. I am sure the House itself would desire to remove rather than maintain any serious barrier in the way of improved conditions of service under the various railway companies.
It has been urged upon me from various quarters in connection with this Bill, that one or other of the questions in which traders are specially interested—such as owners' risk, increases of passengers' fares and terminal rates—should also be incorporated in the Bill. It is some gratification to me to discover that traders and others now, but unfortunately too late, are appreciating the virtues of my former Bill, because the greater part of those questions, which they are now urging should be incorporated, are questions which were included in the former Bill, or if it had been allowed to go to Committee they would have been discussed and put into the Bill if the Committee had so chosen. I am glad to find that regret is now expressed at the demise of the former Bill.
As regards these proposals, I should have been glad if it had been possible to enlarge the scope of this measure and include some of those matters to which reference has been made. But none of them could, of course, have been inserted in this Bill unless they could be treated more or less as non-controversial measures, otherwise the position would have been exactly the same with this Bill as it was in regard to the other measure, only it would have been aggravated because we are now later on in the Session. I did my best in regard to some of those matters to ascertain if there was any likelihood of any arrangement being come to, and I found there was not. Under those circumstances it must be obvious it was not possible to insert any 1581 of those provisions in the Bill., and they mast be dealt with at some future time.
I have endeavoured, as shortly as I can, to place the House in possession of the reasons which animated the Government in giving this undertaking. I have endeavoured to show, as clearly and shortly as I can, the actual result that would ensue from the actual operations of the Bill. It may properly be considered a small matter and not one of far-reaching importance, but I think it is one the railway companies are entitled to claim. In itself the Bill is not inequitable. It is so guarded as to adequately protect the trader, and at the same time it enables the Government to carry out an undertaking which it is bound in honour to fulfil. I hope, under these circumstances, the House will be good enough to give the Bill a Second Beading, and allow it to go to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I am sure that the House has listened with great interest to the very able exposition of the Bill which has just been put before it by the right hon. Gentleman. I think he has made an extraordinarily good case for what appears to some of us to be a very bad Bill. I should like to recognise, first of all, the seriousness of the position, both national and international, in August, 1911, when the bargain was made with the railway companies, of which this Bill is the result. I should like to recognise the great importance of safeguarding the interests of the railway workers of this country, because there is no sort of employment which it is of greater national importance to maintain under proper conditions than that of service upon our great national railways. I wish to recognise frankly the necessity on the part of the Government of fulfilling the pledge which they made, and of which this Bill purports to be the fulfilment. I think the railway companies are justified in having some provision made under which they will be able to recoup themselves for any reasonable loss they have suffered. I do not agree with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that if this Bill had been produced immediately after the settlement of the railway strike it would have met with the unanimous approval of this House. Those interests, at any rate, which I represent have from the very first expressed their objections to the proposals of the Government and their intention to resist them when embodied in a Bill. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the 1582 No. 1 Bill, which was originally introduced by the Government in fulfilment of this pledge. That Bill did contain what this Bill does not, namely, some quid pro quo to the traders of this country, and particularly the agriculturists whom I for the moment am representing. It did give some consideration to them in return for their having to pay the whole cost of the settlement of 1911. What the Government then said, in fact, to the contending parties was: "We will undertake that neither of you shall suffer any loss as the result of this strike; in fact, one o shall substantially gain; shall pay the Bill."
The public had not suited, and bearing in traders, admittedly for some years past, have suffered serious hardships at the hands of the railway companies, and admittedly have had grievances which ought to be remedied, as the Member for South Shields (Mr. Russell Rea), who was Chairman of the Committee upon Railway Agreements and Amalgamations, must admit, it is only fair to incorporate into a Bill of this character some sort of a quid pro quo to the traders who will have to pay the cost. The right hon. Gentleman said, I think rather unfairly, that the traders killed the former Bill. If they did I was not aware of it, and it must have been killed on account of their objections mainly to Clause 2, which is the only Clause now to be found in the present Bill. The traders welcomed several of the Clauses that were incorporated in that Bill, particularly that relating to owners' risk rates, and cheapening of the procedure under which they might approach the Railway Commissioners. It would have brought some advantage to them, and it was only their opposition to this particular provision which is now incorporated in a single Clause Bill to which they objected, and to which they had a right to object. If that Bill was killed, I suggest to this House and to the right hon. Gentleman, that it was killed by the objections of the railway companies to those Clauses which would have benefited the traders and not by the objections put forward by the traders themselves. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, in all seriousness, where is the need for this Bill? It purports to amend the Railways and Canal Traffic Act of 1894, Section I, which reads:—Where a railway company have, either alone or jointly with any other railway 1583 company or companies, since the last day of December, 1892, directly or indirectly increased, or hereafter increase directly or indirectly, any rate or charge, then if any complaint is made that the rate or charge is unreasonable, it shall lie on the company to prove that the increase of the rate or charge is reasonable, and for that purpose it shall not be sufficient to show that the rate or charge is within any limit fixed by an Act of Parliament, or by any Provisional Order confirmed by Act of Parliament.When that Act passed through this House it was recognised that these maxima operated injustice to many traders of this country, particularly those engaged in the smaller and unorganised trades. That particular Section provided that wherever an objection was made before the Railway Commission it would be incumbent upon the railway company to prove the reasonableness of the increased charge. Although it is perfectly true that this Act did not in terms say that an improvement in the conditions of labour of the railway staff would necessarily be construed as a reasonable cause for an increase in railway rates, there is in fact any amount of case law founded upon that Act, which proves up to the hilt that it is the law of the land to-day that such circumstances shall be taken into account and shall be held to be a valid justification for an increase in rates. I suggest to the House that in fact this Bill diminishes the protection which the traders already enjoy under the Act of 1894. The other day I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question as to the necessity under the circumstances of introducing this Bill, and his answer was:—The Act of 1894 requires a railway company to justify an increase of rate before the Railway and canal Commission, if challenged, but does not indicate what circumstances are to be regarded as a valid justification in any given case—It is perfectly true that the Act does not do that, but the Case Law founded upon the Act undoubtedly does.It has been doubted how far the improvements in regard to the conditions of labour can justify the increase of a particular rate.There are any number of cases to show that that is a sufficient justification, but these words are added:—unless and in so far as the cost of that particular traffic has been effected by the general rise. The Railways (No. 2) Bill provides that, on proof of the various matters enumerated in the Bill, a general rise in the cost of working due to improved conditions of labour, introduced since August, 1911. shall be treated as justifying a reasonable increase in a particular rate.1584 My objection to that answer is that it withdraws from the traders a recognised consideration which is always taken into account by the Railway Commissioners to their advantage, and that is that the cost of the particular traffic in every case shall be considered. I venture to hope the Bill will be amended in this respect, but, as it stands without Amendment, it is quite possible for a railway company to increase the wages of the staff engaged in a particular class of traffic either on the railway itself, or at a port, or even outside the railway altogether in the collection and delivery of goods, and to throw the burden upon all the other classes, or certain of the other classes, of traffic wholly unaffected by this particular increase and dealt with by a totally different class of railway servant altogether. I should like to put quite shortly my objections to this particular Bill. I am bound to say that the explanations of the right hon. Gentleman to some extent modifies my apprehensions, but I should like to see them incorporated in the Bill, and I hope, if the interpretations which he puts upon the Bill are correct, he will allow us to incorporate in the Bill certain Amendments which will enable those interpretations to be the interpretations of the Railway and Canal Commissioners when they have to consider these matters. I put forward these three objections to the Bill as it stands today. In the first place, the Commissioners are not bound to take into consideration any circumstances under which a railway company, while improving the conditions of their staff, have increased their revenue apart from the increase of rates. Secondly, the Bill does not provide that the additional expenditure is to be met by an increased rate only upon the class of traffic in which such employés are engaged. The best instance of that, of course, is an improvement in the conditions of those employed in dealing with passenger traffic, and as a result a particular class of goods traffic having to suffer the increased burden. My third objection may or may not be a substantial one. It is that rates may be charged in relation to traffic coming from various ports which, in fact, will be less than and will not suffer the increases which will be imposed upon what I may call the inland traffic. In other words, the foreign importer will gain an advantage at the cost of the English producer or the English trader.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I have read paragraph (d) very carefully indeed, and I think it really meets that point.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I am bound to say that, as paragraph (d) is expressed at the present time, it does not appear to me to meet the point at all, but, if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept Amendments in the light of his explanation, I quite agree it may be made to meet the point. It has been laid down in several different cases, and notably in that of Smith and Forrest against the London and North-Western Railway Company, that considerations as to an improvement in the conditions of labour on railways are a proper justification for an increase in rates. Perhaps the House will allow me to read part of the judgment in the case of Smith and Forrest, which is to this effect:—If it is shown, after all the elements of cost and I economy have been taken into consideration, that the I necessary cost per ton carried will, under uniform conditions, be increased without any compensating circumstances, then it is prima factereasonable to increase the rate by the same sum. To justify an increase of rates it is not sufficient to prove that the cost of working the traffic as a whole has increased, but it must be shown there has been an increase in cost of working the particular service or branch of traffic in respect of which the rates have been raised.I am afraid I have not got it here, but the judgment goes on to say an improvement in the conditions of the railway servants is a proper justification for an increase in the rates, allowing, of course, for compensating advantages moving to the company in other directions. The element of the economy of working appears not to have been taken into account at all in this Bill. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree—that, if you are going to improve the conditions of railway service, you are going to increase its efficiency, and therefore its value to the railway companies. If that is so, it cannot be fair to put the whole of the increased cost upon the trader. A rise in wages does not necessarily increase the cost to the railway company, because a smaller number of men may be employed and the cost of work done by the railway company may be even less than it was before. This Bill does not take into account a very large number of respects in which railway companies are economising at the present time. In the first place, there is a large amount of labour saving machinery being used upon the railway systems, as elsewhere. It takes no account of a fall in the cost of raw materials. Most of them are high now, 1586 but they are not always as high as they are to-day, and there is no reason, if they fall, why the public should not get the benefit of such a decrease in cost. Railway companies of late years have economised considerably by having running powers over other railway systems and also by the system of "transhipment" which, I believe, is a technical term and expresses that process by which small consignments are carried to a certain centre (often resulting in great delay so far as the consignee is concerned), and then distributed according to the convenience of the railway companies in parcels going to a certain destination.
There are two main factors which I am sure everyone who is engaged in trade today must realise make for economy. One of them is the much more powerful engines which are being used by the big railway companies, and the other is the enlargement in the size of the average wagon and in the average train load. Those are matters which ought to be taken into account by the Commission, and I suggest that under this Bill they will not be taken into account, and that the trader will not get the benefit due to him in respect of them. There has actually been, in consequence largely of the increase in the size of wagons and the use of more powerful engines, a very considerable reduction in recent years in the number of men employed upon the railways. In 1907 the total number of men employed was 621,000. They had fallen by 1910 to 609,000. Apparently, the rates of the railway companies are not less than in former years, and the services performed by their servants are certainly not less than they used to be. In 1901 the receipts per goods mile of railway amounted to 73.25d., and in 1910 that had risen to 95.4d. The variation in the quantity of goods carried upon the railways is perhaps the most significant fact of all, and is an evidence of the process which is continuing and which I suggest will continue at a greater rate in the future. The quantity of goods and minerals carried have increased, and the mileage over which they have been carried has substantially decreased. These are the figures: In 1901 the quantity of goods and minerals carried by the railway companies amounted to 416,000,000 tons, and they travelled over 173,000,000 miles; in 1910 the quantity had increased to 515,000,000 tons, and the mileage travelled had decreased to 155,000,000 miles. In other words, 99,000,000 tonal 1587 more were carried in 1910 than in 1901, and they travelled over 18,000,000 miles less. The railway companies are therefore all the time effecting economies in their cost of running and in their staff, and I suggest that in the Bill as it stands those economies will not be credited, as they ought to some extent to be credited, to the traders who are now asked to pay the bill. It seems to me that the traders ought to get some quid pro quo under this Bill. It is perfectly true that the railway companies have to pay a higher rate of wages than formerly, and as time goes on they will probably have to pay a still higher rate of wages, but they employ fewer men and they are doing an extended business, earning much larger revenue, and practising economies every year.
§ Lord CLAUD HAMILTON indicated dissent.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
It will be open to the Noble Lord to point out that they are not, in fact, increasing their revenue at a greater pace than they are increasing the cost of their labour. I suggest this all shows that the cost per unit of service has considerably decreased in recent years, and will considerably decrease as time goes on. The railway companies always act under pressure, but seldom act, so far as the trader is concerned, in the absence of pressure. In other words., they will follow the line of least resistance. When they are attacked by wealthy and organised traders, who they realise are in a position to take their case before the Railway and Canal Commission, they will be prepared to give in to their reasonable requirements. But how about the poorer traders—the farmers, the small shopkeepers, and those who have neither organisation nor wealth? In every one of those cases it must be recognised that the question whether or not the increase is reasonable, can never come to trial. They cannot afford to bring their case before the Railway Commission, with all its cumbrous machinery, and with the enormous expense which such proceedings involve. May I appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to realise what is the main purpose and constitution of his Department? It is to protect the trade and industry of this country, and particularly that class of trade and industry which is least able to protect itself. The attitude of the Board of Trade up till the last three or four years has been one of 1588 considerable suspicion when the railway companies have reduced the amount of inter-railway competition by working arrangements or amalgamations, but lately the attitude of the Board of Trade has been to encourage those amalgamations, and whereas after encouraging those amalgamations they ought to have looked with still greater suspicion upon any increase of rates on the part of the railway companies, and ought to give still greater credit to the traders in respect of other considerations which would tend to economy in the working of the railways, they introduce a Bill under which they practically say they will take good care that a railway company and its servants shall not suffer; but at the same time the traders have had withdrawn from them the privilege they have hitherto enjoyed of asking the railway tribunal to take into account all considerations, and not merely one only, in the event of rates being increased and complaint being made thereof. So far as this Bill is concerned, I hope that if the House is going to accept it— I trust it will not do so—it will be on the understanding that first of all a time-limit is put into the Bill, because the right hon. Gentleman has already stated that he would have brought in a larger and more comprehensive Bill to deal with some of the grievances of the traders if time had permitted in this very overcrowded Session. In the second place, I hope he will be prepared to consider sympathetically all reasonable Amendments that may be put down to the various Sub-clauses, in order to give some greater protection to the traders and secure for them, if possible, some quid pro quo in consideration of the fact that they are asked to pay the whole cost of settling the serious railway strike of 1911.
§ Mr. WILES
I think the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his view that the Bill will pass through the House with very little opposition. I should like to point out to the President of the Board of Trade the very great alarm which has been caused to the traders throughout the country by the measure—not only among manufacturers, merchants, and agriculturists, but among the small shopkeepers and traders; they are all alarmed, and they all fear that this Bill will allow the railway companies once more to further increase their charges. I quite admit the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman was put into at the time of the railway strike. We all sympathised with him in 1589 that difficulty. We know he, then promised to introduce this Bill. The hon. Member who has just spoken has asked him to act generously in his consideration of Amendments during the Committee stage; I also make a like appeal to him. He has already met the traders by putting the onus of proof of the reasonableness of the increase in charges on the railway companies instead of on the trader himself. That is a concession. But the trading community view with great alarm the railway combine. We know perfectly well that all the great companies are working very closely together. They confer week by week, they arrange their rates, and there is practically no competition at the present time among the companies. It may be said that they spend a great deal in advertising. It does not interest me as a traveller to know that the Midland Railway is Cock o' the North or that the Great Western leads to Cornwall, which is made to look like a map of Italy. That is an absolute waste of money. We know that the railway companies have settled their rates and fares, and by whatever line you travel you will be charged the same price. We are getting, indeed, towards the position that if this railway-combine continues we shall have all the disadvantages of State ownership without any of the advantages.
I contend that the railway companies have ample power without this Bill to so increase their charges as to make up the extra amount they have promised their servants. Speeding up and gearing up has been going on for some time. Many privileges which traders have enjoyed in the past have been curtailed. Annoying charges have been imposed, small no doubt individually, but amounting in the aggregate, so far as the company is concerned, to a very large sum. I could give instances. The charges for the traders' tickets have been put up 10 per cent. The trader could not go to the Railway Commission and make a complaint of that; he has no remedy in that matter. He has to submit to the charges, because he is in the hands of the railway company. Again, many facilities have been withdrawn in regard to the use and unloading of trucks and wagons, the charges have been altered for the return of empties (an operation which, I believe, was at one time carried out free of charge). All these sums, though small in amount, must add largely to the revenues of the great railway companies. It is perfectly true that the rail- 1590 way company, if it wants to increase its charges, has, to go before the Commissioners, but then it is very easy for a railway company, with its millions of capital, to do that. It has its own legal staff, and it has expert knowledge at its fingers' ends. But it is a very difficult thing for a small trader, or indeed for a comparatively large one, to make the railway company prove its case before the Commission. If this Bill passes, I think it will be very difficult for the small trader, who has a very keen competition to meet—much more competition in fact than the railway company—it will be very difficult for him to go before the Commission to prove his case.
In the past when advantages have been given to railway companies it has been usual to give some quid pro quo to the trader. There are many ways in which that might be done. In Committee many of the traders' Amendments might be inserted. The companies might be compelled to provide sufficient trucks and wagons for the purposes of their traffic; at many railway stations there are no weighbridges; lighters at our ports are delayed by the insufficient wharfage accommodation, and I think that provisions might be inserted in this Bill which would remedy some of these grievances; especially at a time when the traders of the country are being made to think that they are to provide the increased pay granted by the railway companies to their employé Again, I have been reminded that there is no guarantee to the traders that the extra cost to be incurred in wages will be given to the men who most need an increase. There are the higher officials who control the railways, or some might go to the directors. [An HON. MEMBER; "They get so little that it would make no difference."] I would suggest that they should direct the railways without any charge in the future, and then we should admire them more than we do at the present time. I raise this question of a guarantee that the wages will be paid to those who most need the added income because if this Bill is passed we want to be in such a position that there will not be another strike. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will insert an Amendment in this Bill enabling the officials of his Department to examine, from time to time, the railway companies figures and to ascertain to what classes of employés the increases of pay go. The Board of Trade ought to see that the money which 1591 has been handed over to the railway companies is spent in the right way. It ought to see that the porters who only now get a living wage by a combination of low wages and tips get some of this increase. If we could be assured of that, I believe the House would be much more ready to support this Bill. When we get a reply from the Government I hope we will be given the promise that, if we support this Bill on Second Reading, some of the Amendments which I have foreshadowed 'wall receive favourable consideration, because they will give the trader some protection and some assurance that the money he is to hand over is not all going to be appropriated by the railway company in any manner they choose.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I desire to say, first of all, that I am not speaking in the name or on behalf of the party with which I am associated. I am speaking entirely for myself, but as one who was a signatory to the particular agreement, and who therefore knows all the circumstances responsible for the promise. I do not differ in the least from the history of the case as summarised by the President of the Board of Trade, but I desire to emphasise the fact that so far as the men who were parties to that settlement were concerned they were not in the least bound by any promise. We were not consulted. Had we been consulted, we should have absolutely refused to have bound ourselves in that direction. I want to make it perfectly clear that in no part of the settlement were the representatives of the men in any way committed to this proposal. I desire to remind the House of the significance of the statement made by the President this evening, a statement which I am bound to say, in my opinion, is not calculated to help the passage of the Bill. He said that at the particular period when the Government made this promise the propositions they submitted to the railway companies were very distasteful indeed to the companies—those are his own words—and he went on to say that he and those acting with him had considerable difficulty in persuading the railway companies to accept them. There are two answers to that. Whether or not the Government had persuaded them it would have made no difference. The only difference would have been that the strike would have gone on longer. [Sir F. BANBURY: "Oh!"] That is my opinion. The hon. Baronet is en- 1592 titled to his. The most important point is that at that moment there were 100,000 railwaymen in receipt of less than £l a week. That is undisputed by the Government's own Return, although it has been denied several times. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord Claud Hamilton) dissents from that, but I may tell him that in his own particular company, at the time I am speaking of, August, 1911, there were 5,607 men, or nearly one-third of the running staff, rated at less than £l a week. Therefore I repeat that the statement that it was distasteful to the railway company to give anything higher than £l a week is not calculated to help this particular Bill.
This is the first time that Parliament has been asked to give further powers to any employer in consequence of the successful efforts of trade unionism. There are two points to remember in this connection. I very readily admit that the railway companies are not in the same position as other employers. I frankly say that in another industry an increase in the miners' wages has undoubtedly been placed upon the consumer, but it is also significant to note that while you accept the one proposition, you have also to accept the proposition that the railway companies are not subject to the same competition as other employers. Therefore the one thing is counterbalanced by the other, inasmuch as they are State privileged and to all intents and purposes have a monopoly. I very frankly say that the advances, with which I am going to deal with in a moment, which have been given as a result of that settlement were technically advances that the men would not otherwise have obtained, and that the Railway Commission's Report did enable the men constitutionally to obtain that advance of wages regardless of the times which the particular agreements and awards were carried. So far as the traders' complaints are concerned, I have only to observe this: That if the traders are complaining very much to-day, as they are, it only shows their indifference in the past to the conditions of the railway men. It is significant to note that, while all the time people have been talking about the wretched conditions of railway men, and while we have been protesting against the conditions under which men work, the traders were quite indifferent as to what the conditions of the men were so long as they were not affected by the rates. In fact, we on these benches think that not 1593 only their action, but certainly the Debate up to this stage, has clearly demonstrated that the real way to deal with this situation is by State ownership and no other.
I come now to what, after all, is the honour of the Government in this matter. The Government say that this Bill is being proposed this evening to redeem a pledge that they made to the railway companies. I frankly say that that is the situation so far as I understand it. But what was the pledge to the railway men? If the Government's honour is at stake in this matter, then I am going to submit that instead of introducing one Bill this evening to redeem their pledge and promise to the railway companies, they ought as well to have brought in a Bill to redeem their promise to the men. Let us see what it was. As a part of the settlement to which the Board of Trade were parties, made when this pledge was given, what did they promise us? They said to us, before "we signed that agreement, before we left the room, before we would have committed ourselves to have settled the strike, that whatever the findings of the Railway Commission might be, if any railway company refused to abide by them or accept them, legislation was to follow. That was the promise made to us. I raised the question in this House, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer also made the pledge from that box. It was followed up by a letter to the Board of Trade, and I am going to quote an extract from a letter from the Board of Trade to substantiate it. On 7th September, in reply to the communication we sent, they said:—I am directed by the Board of Trade to refer to your letter of the '27th August, and in reply I am to state that the Board are aware that in the course of the formal communications between the representatives of His Majesty's Government and of the railway men which led up to the negotiations by which the general dispute of 19th August. 1911, was settled, the question was raised whether, in the event of one of the parties declining to accept the recommendations of the suggested Commission", the Government would propose legislation. The Hoard are also aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, stated in the House of Commons on 17th August, 131', that if the Government accepted the recommendations of the Commission they would be prepared, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, immediately to take administrative action with reference thereto, and if they discovered that their administrative powers were insufficient and inadequate it was their intention to take steps to strengthen those powers.That was the promise made by the Government. That was the Chancellor of the Exchequer's promise made to the representatives of the men. Why have they not redeemed that promise as well as redeemed the promise to the railway companies? They have striven to bring the 1594 Irish railway companies in. They have failed to persuade the Irish railway companies to accept the settlement to which they were parties. If they have failed, then they are bound by the pledge so made to introduce legislation in order to compel them to come in. Therefore, I am justified in saying to the House to-night that it is not fair dealing with the men to expect us to support a Bill which redeems one side of the pledge, while at the same time we know perfectly well that our side of the pledge has not been carried out, and that apparently there is no intention to-carry it out.
Incidentally this Bill applies to Ireland. It gives the Irish railway companies power to raise rates. The obvious answer to that may be, "Unless they can prove an increase in wages, then they will not get the benefit of this Bill." My answer to that is that this settlement was not a settlement of wages alone. It was a settlement of machinery, and the whole of the machinery is a part of the settlement. For these reasons we are justified in asking the Government to give some answer this evening to this side of the question. A further point to which I desire to draw attention is that while that applies to Ireland, they have also failed to compel an English railway company to observe their side of the contract. I have repeatedly debated in this House the refusal of the Central London Railway Company to deal with the Conciliation Scheme, and I have pointed out that six men were dismissed because they endeavoured to carry out that scheme. The Board of Trade offered their services and said it was a case for arbitration. 4 representative of the railway company, speaking from the opposite side of the House, agreed to accept arbitration on the point. We accepted it, but, because they had a bad case, they absolutely refused to go to arbitration. I say that is a violation of the pledge given in that particular settlement.
§ Mr. THOMAS
But they were men who went out on strike and the Railway Commission reported in favour on certain machinery which enabled the men to avail themselves of this scheme. The men were dismissed because they were trying to carry out the recommendation of the Royal Commission. Therefore, in that sense, it is germane to it, and, I think, 1595 very important. Part of the settlement was that, in addition to the Royal Commission which was set up immediately work was resumed, all traces of illwill would be removed, no distinction would be made between strikers and non-strikers, and, so far as the railway companies were concerned, everything would go on as if nothing had happened. What are the facts? Repeatedly we have asked the Board of Trade and this House to take notice of what we believe to be alleged victimisation on a certain railway. It is only fair to other railways to say I am not making a general charge, and it is well that I should specifically mention that, so far as that side of the question is concerned, the railway companies in the main have acted absolutely honourably with the exception of the one I am going to deal with. These questions were raised in this House. The Board of Trade were consulted. They agreed to appoint one of their Commissioners. Probably hon. Members will have seen in this evening's papers the heading, "No Victimisation Proved." That is the result of the Commissioner's investigation. The Commissioner sat and heard nine cases of alleged victimisation. Surely hon. Members, even railway directors, will see how difficult it much be to prove victimisation—the hundred and one excuses surrounding railway life, the difficulties that lead railway men to make some mistake, and then you can conceive the difficulty of proving victimisation. Out of the nine cases this learned Commissioner inquired into only one is proved, and of it he says:—Under all these circumstances I cannot resist the conclusion that in this case of the mileage train, non-strikers have received preferential treatment, and in particular Chorlton was taken off a mileage train at the particular time in question because he was a striker and, in my opinion, in this respect the men concerned have been penalised in violation of Clause 2 of the Agreement of 19th August, 1911.As to the other cases, he says that he was not satisfied that they are proved. But imagine the doubt that exists. In one case he says:—In this case I have considerable doubt, but in view Of no hard and fast rule existing I was influenced by the superintendent's statement.In another case—this is the Midland—a striker complained that a non-striker receiver preferential treatment. He appealed to his superintendent; he went to Derby to see the superintendent, and this is what the Commissioner said:—Shepherd appealed to Mr. Owen in respect of the promotion, and at that interview, in explaining the 1596 reason why the other man was selected, Mr. Owen referred to the strike and in terms which would naturally lead Shepherd to suppose that he did not view those who took part in it with favour. I am not surprised, therefore, that this case should be regarded with suspicion by the men.Although in this case he gives the benefit of the doubt to the railway company, imagine the doubtful circumstances surrounding it. What is his general conclusion? After investigating the whole of the case he says that the railway companies, on the report sheet of the men, mark in red ink the fact that every man struck work, and he says:—Without suggesting that the company should not have a record of strikers and non-strikers, it seems to me that it would be possible to keep such a record of the service sheet which is used for purposes of discipline and promotion. The company's officials stated, as must have been the case, on the assumption that the agreement of 19th August, 1911, is being carried out, that for the purpose for which they required to consult the service sheet the red ink is entirely unnecessary. This matter is relevant to the specific case as a piece of evidence which was common to all, although I venture to emphasise its importance if it is desired to remove suspicion and friction for the future.When there is such evidence as this, instead of a railway company accepting the settlement in the spirit and letter, instead of them forgetting all the incidents connected with the strike, when we are now called upon to give this company further power as a result of this particular settlement are we not justified in saying that not only is it possible to say, but we are justified in saying, that it is for the Board of Trade themselves to take action in the matter? With regard to the Bill, how are the persons aggrieved going to prove an injury? I shall be reminded that on the wording of the Bill itself the proof rests with the railway company. The point I desire to draw attention to is that the railway companies have to show an increase since 19th August, 1911, in the conditions of employment of their staff. I want to know what the definition of "staff" is in this connection. It will be an easy matter for them to show an increase if you look to the general manager, the superintendent, and everybody connected with the staff, but I think the intention is—and I feel sure the railway companies will not object to this—any increase in connection with this scheme.
Surely it is not the intention that the traders are to suffer for something that has no connection with the strike or with the men involved. Therefore the words of that paragraph ought to be that it must be shown as an increase to those affected in this particular scheme. It is true that there are some railway companies to-day 1597 paying higher dividends than they did last year. The Welsh railway companies are. The Taff is paying 4½ per cent., or equivalent to 10 per cent, as against 10 per cent, last half-year. The Rhymney are paying 10 per cent, as against 9 per cent, last year. That would be the general situation of the whole of the South Wales railways. The point I desire to emphasise is that this is not going to be a fair test, because between 1900 and 1910 there was practically a revolution in railway work. It was in this particular period that an enormous increase of traffic took place, and it was in that particular period that speeding-up was so noticeable. It was also in that particular period that the amalgamation and the working agreements came into operation, and the result is that when this agreement of 19th August, 1911, was made the railway companies were in the position of being able to say, "We are carrying millions more traffic, earning millions of pounds more revenue, and employing fewer men than we were ten years ago." The effect of that is that you have an increase following on a period when the railway companies themselves have had all the benefits. Then I want to know how it is going to operate in another way. In my own Constituency, the Midland Railway Company raised the wages of their labourers from 18s. to £l per week. That would be shown as net increase, I suppose. But practically at the same time that they gave the increase, with all the credit of establishing a minimum of £l, they put them on three-quarter time and they were only earning 18s. 1d. Therefore in that respect they would have shown an increase by employing a larger number.
§ Mr. BUXTON
That is not so. The question, as I pointed out twice, is one of aggregate additional amount for the same work, and in this case undoubtedly that would not be so. It is not a question of men; it is a question of the amount of pay.
§ Mr. THOMAS
But surely the right hon. Gentleman must know the difficulty. Take this week with the corresponding week of last year. We have been subject to considerable fogs. There must be scores of districts over the railway system of this country whore the operating charges would be double this week what they were twelve months ago by the overtime, Sunday time, and a hundred and one things which have delayed and blocked traffic. By no stretch of the imagination can it be shown that the wage bill in that case would be more. It 1598 would not be on the weekly rates but on the wages of the men that they put their overtime, Sunday time, and the hundred and one other things. If that is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman it certainly cannot be carried out in that Clause, and there ought at least to be a Clause in the Bill compelling the railway companies to show the rates of wages of every grade of their staff separately. Then you will be able to see exactly the situation.
§ Mr. BUXTON
The Railway and Canal Commissioners decide the question and the question is, "Has a particular railway in a particular period to meet a certain increase, and is the labour so much dearer for that period as to justify any increase in the rates?" Obviously the Railway and Canal Commissioners will inspect accounts and books to satisfy themselves that they were actually put to this additional cost for labour.
§ Mr. THOMAS
If the Railway and Canal Commissioners are themselves going to obtain that information, what is the difficulty and objection to the information being obtained by the traders and the men themselves? That is the situation in a nutshell. It is hardly true that it would operate in the way the right hon. Gentleman says. Take a concrete illustration. I know a railway company that, in order to separate the employés have put some men on the staff at an increase of 8s. per week. That brings them out of the category of ordinary workmen. There may be an increase in officialdom and supervision, but none of the real increase goes to the men actually performing the work, and therefore I think that is a point that ought to be safeguarded in a Clause of the Bill. I hope that, without any heat or passion, I have established to the House one proposition, namely, that I should not have hesitated to have supported this Bill if the Board of Trade had been in a position to say, "We are carrying out both sides of the bargain." The Irish railway companies were intended to be included. They have refused the pressure of the Board of Trade up to now. They have made all manner of excuses about the strike. The fact remains that the Government promised us that they would be included, and we have looked to the Government to fulfil their obligations. In the second place, the Midland Railway Company have violated the agreement as entered into by the men and the companies, and to which the Board of Trade were a party. It is for the Board of Trade to say what steps 1599 they are going to take to deal with this situation. This is the only opportunity one will have of raising this question, and I have availed myself of it. I am sure that the general sense of the House will be that, while the right hon. Gentleman should fulfil any pledge given to the railway companies, he should not be a party to the carrying out of a one-sided pledge.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
We shall all recognise I think, the character of the pledge that was given to the railway companies eighteen months ago, but I think many of us on this side of the House have doubts whether the Bill as drafted does not go beyond carrying out that pledge, and possibly goes further than its authors ever intended. I think we also feel that there are other conditions entered into at the time which have not been carried out, and that therefore we shall have to be very careful before we pass this Bill as it is before us to-night. The Bill surely marks a new departure. Under the Act of 1894 the companies had to prove that an increase of any rate or charge was reasonable, if complaint were made that it was unreasonable, but under the new Bill the companies are merely called upon to prove that an increase in a rate or charge does not exceed the increase in the wages, and they are not required to show that there has been a real increase in the total cost of handling and conveying the traffic. I am informed on the best authority I have been able to consult that if this Bill went through as it is before the House now, a railway company might handle its traffic at a lower rate than it is doing at the present time, and yet put this net increase in the cost of wages upon the trader, or, in other words, upon the consumer. Having consulted the best authority I could, that is their deliberate statement, and I cannot but feel if that be so, it is a very serious point which requires the most careful consideration of this House. May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that from the speeches we have listened to to-night it is perfectly evident that new circumstances have entered into railway policy which require 1600 the most careful consideration of this House?
May I very briefly summarise these changes? There has been the introduction of power propelled vehicles, first for passengers and now for goods traffic. There has been in recent years the abandonment of competition between railways, and I would call the attention of hon. Members to the fact that that abandonment has been arranged without the consent of this House. The third point I would mention is the progress of science in the matter of railway transportation, enabling both goods and passenger traffic to be conducted with greater economy than before. The fourth point is the widespread and deep discontent among railway servants, stimulated by the increase in the cost of living, and by modern methods of operation on the railways. No one can have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) without realising that there are solid grounds for that dissatisfaction. If it be true that comparatively recently you had 100,000 men on the railways of this country earning under £l a week, you cannot be surprised that there is dissatisfaction, and I venture to think that there will be this dissatisfaction until such time as the railway companies have recognised the need of granting to their men a minimum wage, and of giving them a wage that will enable them to live as civilised people. But there is one other point in connection with this labour unrest which I think demands the attention of this House, and that is, that just because of the introduction of scientific methods in the operation of railways—to the introduction of which I do not object, and which indeed I consider absolutely necessary—the result is that there is at the present time a feeling that it is almost impossible to get promotion on the railways. In the old time people were willing to accept low wages to start with on the railways, because they naturally expected promotion would follow; but now with the new system as you find it on the railways to-day, it is almost impossible for more than a few to get promotion, and therefore the low rate, men used to start with should surely be increased. That is felt by the men, and it is one reason for the continuance of the unrest.
It is these five factors, which have all to be taken into account, which brought about the unrest that resulted in the appointment of Conciliation Boards, and that brought about the 1601 strike. It is these factors that are really behind the introduction of this Bill. What I desire to point out to the House is that whilst this Bill may legalise the pledge that was given, it does not settle matters. The difficulties remain, and I would suggest that it is the duty of the Government not simply to legalise the pledge, but to do their best to settle the difficulties as they find them to-day. This unrest at the present time exists, not only among employés, but also among traders and shareholders, as I think the hon. Member opposite has pointed out once or twice in this House. It exists also in the general public. I do not wish to dwell further upon the question from the standpoint of labour, except to say that one of the chief reasons why the men at the present time are not satisfied is because, looking to the future, they do not see much chance of their lot being bettered. They see that electrification is naturally going to increase. They see that modern methods are spreading, and that they are going still further to make it difficult for them to find full work. They are doubtful whether they are getting their fair share of these economies or their fair share of the result of increased traffic.
This naturally leads to unrest among traders, because they feel, as things are at present on the railways, that there is danger at any time of a strike. A trader has not simply to think about what he pays for freights. What he desires is certainty, and the danger of the present situation is that communication by railway is made uncertain, as some of us experienced a few weeks ago in the North when we could not send our goods on the North-Eastern Railway for three or four days. I think we shall all agree that it is the duty of the Board of Trade to take these factors into consideration, and to try to do something, not only to give legal effect to the pledge, but to deal with those points to which I have called attention. This unrest among traders will increase, because they see that now, when railway companies are making economies and competition has been banished they are asked to face increased charges. The traders, with all respect to the directors of railway companies, are not altogether satisfied with the present management, and the more progressive directors of railway companies are themselves profoundly dissatisfied with it. I only give one illustration of the kind of feeling that traders have with regard to management. They cannot understand how railway 1602 managers and directors are able to run their business when they do not keep proper and vital accounts. Any trader looking for the first time into the accounts of a railway company, must be struck with the point: How does the railway manager or director make proper comparisons from year to year? The question of statistics is vital in connection with this matter, and I think I can show that it vitally affects the problem of labour.
A manufacturer knows at once what is the cost of the article he manufactures. He knows what he pays for raw materials, for labour, for packing. He knows his overhead charges; he knows the total cost. He knows the price he obtains for his article, and he knows the profit he makes per hundredweight or per £100 of sales. That is exactly what the railway company does not know. There is no railway director in the House who can tell us the cost of carrying a passenger or a ton of goods a mile, or what he received for carrying a passenger or a ton of goods a mile. These statistics, which are given by practically every other country except Portugal, are vital to efficient railway management, and the difficulty that railway men have in connection with this matter is that the railway companies are unable to satisfy those who negotiate with them, that they are getting an adequate share of increased traffic, increased turnover or economies. In any ordinary business, if there is an application for an increase of wages, a man who negotiates with those desiring the increase is able at once to show what the effect of that increase will be upon the cost of the manufactured article, and very likely will discuss what will be the effect of raising the price of that article to cover that increased cost. That is exactly what the railway companies cannot do, and until the railways can give those figures it will be impossible to get the settlement on the railway systems of this country that will be desirable. Anyone who will read the paper written by Mr. Acworth, one of the greatest railway authorities in this country, and by Sir George Paish, written and discussed at the Royal Statistical Society in June, 1912, will be convinced that this question of the statistics is most urgent and important, and I am not surprised that Sir George Gibb after hearing those papers, said:—Before we give you power to increase your rates and fares which may be quite necessary, you must show by much more detailed information than your accounts give the necessity for the increase which von demand.1603 This is the position with which we are faced to-day. There is disaffection among railway men; there is opposition to the efforts of the companies to throw the whole burden of the increased expenses upon the public; there is the endeavour of the managers to reduce expenses by modern methods; there is a grudging acquiescence in the community of interest principle of railway co-operation, and it is grudging because no adequate control is being granted to the public over the co-operation that has taken place. What I want to urge on the Government is that, if we are asked to pass this Bill, to give legal effect to this pledge that has been made that the Government should agree or give some indication of their intention at an early date to appoint a Committee of Inquiry to discover the real economic condition of railway companies and the public policy to be pursued in future. Railway competition is dying. So is the competition which we have relied on in times past in order to get reasonable fares and adequate facilities of traffic. We know that in very large portions of the world railways are owned by the State, that the monopoly is in public hands. The United States has adopted another principle, the principle of public control. The Federal Government have appointed a commission of experts, the Inter-State Commerce Commission, which gathers complete information with regard to all these questions that we have been speaking about, and anyone who will look at the reports of American railways will see how excellent is the information they provide.
This Inter-State Commerce Commission deals with all points relating to rates, fares, and wages, and looks even at the dividend on the capital provided by those railways, and tries to hold the balance even between the different interests affected. I am told by those who have looked most closely into the question of the American railways that, while, of course, there are difficulties, this judicial body has done much latterly to make the system of the railways not only up to date and efficient, but to satisfy the different interests affected. I submit again the time has come for the Government to take a new survey with regard to the present condition of railways in this country, and appoint a strong Commission to advise Parliament as to what should be done. No Commission can advise unless it is given statutory authority to get the information that is needed to be put before the 1604 Commission to enable it to give the right advice to Parliament. I am one of those who think that the present Government in the last six years has done much. Personally I think it has done more than any other Government to ameliorate the conditions of the workers of this country. I trust that they will not be afraid to grant this inquiry, and if they do I think that would be the initial step to bring about permanent rest on the railway systems of this country and also much better prospects for the traders as well.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I do not wish to say a word on this subject which would impede the progress of this Bill, because it seems to me that the good faith of the Government with regard to great and important interests, like railway interests, is involved, and it would be a bad thing for the commercial stability of this country if any Government, whether one that I liked or one that I disliked, were to break a pledge entered into with a great commercial interest. But that is no reason why, as we are certainly making a new and very important move in this Bill, that this Bill should not be made a starting point for some endeavour on the part of the Government to obtain a satisfactory system of control over the railways of this country. The hon. Member who has just spoken, if I may venture humbly to compliment him, as an old hand in dealing with some of those statistical matters, has spoken with great clearness. He has pointed out that we have no adequate statistics from the railways to inform this House as to what services the railways are really performing for the great privileges given to them by this House. I do not speak for shareholders, as I happen to have hardly any of that somewhat varying commodity myself; I do not speak for directors, for I am not a director of a railway, and I think it would be a great pity if the question were viewed by either party from the directors' point of view solely; but I do speak on behalf of some better attempt at scientific organisation of our greatest industry in this country. I would emphasise the point that the hon. Member has made as one of great importance; that is with regard to the change in the position of the railway industry now from what it was a few years ago. The Committee on Railway Accounts, which sat for three years, which heard a vast amount of evidence on this question of statistics, and before which I think the great part of the free and independent 1605 evidence was in favour of a better system of statistics, presented a Report which had two sides to it, what I may call the official railway side and the side in favour of vitalised statistics, which would be of some use to the public.
I have always maintained that the Government and the President of the Board of Trade made a great mistake in leaning to the official railway side rather than to the more enlightened one of a better system of statistics. But if it was the case then, it is certainly doubly the case now, because, as has been pointed out, the railways of this country are no longer competitive undertakings. Competition has been replaced by co-operation, and, where you have a monopoly of a great interest like the railway industry in private hands in my opinion that is an unsafe position, and it as a position which must eventually lead to one of two alternatives—either you must have the railways State-owned, or you must have the railways under effective public control. I will not attempt to detain the House by explaining or even enumerating my reasons for being strongly against State-owned railways in this country, but I am strongly in favour of a thorough system of public control. I endorse all that the hon. Member has said about public control, efficient public control, being absolutely impossible unless you have full and accurate data to enable those who exercise the public control to really know what they are doing.
The efforts of the Committee of Inquiry, which sat for three years and called so much evidence, proved abortive in my opinion because they resulted only in a mechanical division of the present Accounts embodied—the Railway Companies (Accounts and Returns) Act, and not in any great system of statistics to inform everybody connected with railways as to what is really going on and what services the railways are performing—a system of statistics which would inform not only shareholders and directors themselves, but the Members of this House, who I really believe, in spite of all their industry, have to approach these railway subjects without adequate information, because the information is not supplied by the only source from which it can come, that is the railway companies themselves. I do believe myself, that Committee on railway accounts having proved abortive, the next step that ought to be taken would be the appointment of a large, 1606 influential and expert railway commission, not only to go into that question of statistics, but to survey the whole position of the railway industry in relation to the obligations which are laid upon it by the privileges granted to it by this House, in relation to the interests of the traders of the country, and, above all, in relation to the labour employed on the railways. I believe in reference to the labour question that more thorough information would remove us from the field of prejudice and passion, and lead us to consider the real facts of the case, and achieve something towards the solution of the increasing labour problems in this country. I cordially support the hon. Member's proposal urging the Government to appoint a Royal Commission.
Sir ALFRED MONO
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the question to add the words "this day three months."
I do not intend to follow the last two speakers in the very interesting discussion of the question of statistics and the appointment of a Royal Commission, except to say that so far as I am personally concerned, I am entirely sceptical about the value of a Royal Commission in achieving anything. We had a Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways. They sat four or five years, they exhausted the energies of a large number of very influential people in this country, and they got together a large amount of information, after which they made a most important report as to the trade of this country which has been absolutely a dead letter ever since. I think this matter is much too urgent to be referred to a Commission, and that it ought to be dealt with much more promptly than it would be by the method suggested, a method which would involve our waiting probably another four or five years before obtaining a report. In reference to the Bill before the House, I wish to refer in the first instance to the very interesting speech of the President of the Board of Trade, who made a statement that surprised me very much, and which I do not think on reflection he would really care to maintain, namely, that the traders and their representatives killed the Bill which was called Railway (No. 1) Bill. As one who, with others, to some extent represented the traders at several discussions with the President of the Board of Trade on this Bill, and as one who had attended several deputations to him, and therefore was to 1607 some extent responsible for the policy pursued towards that measure, I must confess that I think the President of the Board of Trade made a somewhat unfair representation when he said that the traders had killed the Bill. It is quite true that the Bill contained inter alia a number of Clauses intended to carry out what the traders desired, but practically not one of them in an unamended form would have been of very much use to the traders in any case. That Bill also contained Clause 2, which was very objectionable from the traders' point of view, and the question was how many pills the traders would be induced to swallow with the amount of jam provided. The traders, very naturally, endeavoured to get as much jam as they could for their pill. On that, the Government killed the Bill.
I do not suppose the Second Reading of that Bill would have taken any longer or required any more time than the Second Reading of this Bill. That Bill could have gone to Committee upstairs, where it could have been licked into shape, as it very sadly wanted to be. At any rate, we succeeded in doing away with, what we considered, the most obnoxious part of that Bill, and that was Clause 2, and we succeeded in getting the Government, I will not use stronger words, in inducing the Government to introduce a new Bill and a new Clause in a different shape. When the President of the Board of Trade talks about the unfounded fears of traders regarding the operation of the old Clause 2, I can only say respectfully that those unfounded fears were shared by every trading community and by every legal adviser of every trading community throughout the whole country. The fact that, the Government introduced another Clause, drafted in entirely different fashion, is surely in itself some evidence that they also cannot have been satisfied that the objections which were made at the time to Clause 2 as it originally stood were entirely unfounded. What is the reason why those with whom I am associated still continue our objection to the introduction of this Bill at all in any shape or form? The reason is because we have maintained from the beginning that the pledge given by a Member of the Government at the time of the railway strike was a pledge which must have been given in either ignorance or misapprehension of the law existing at that time on the question of the raising of rates before the 1608 Railway and Canal Commission Court. I cannot conceive, if the Government had before them at that time the case of Rickett Smith and others versus the Midland Railway Company, or a whole number of other cases, that they would have ever for a moment entertained the notion that special legislation was required at all to deal with a matter which was being dealt with, and had been dealt with continually, before the Railway and Canal Commission.
It is admitted to-day by the President of the Board of Trade, although it has taken some time to get the admission, that it had been the practice before the Railway and Canal Commission for railway companies to plead rise of wages and shortening the hours, among other reasons, as reasons for increased rates, and that those causes had succeeded a majority of times when that plea had been made. I would just like to refer to the judgment of Mr. Justice Collins in the case of Rickett Smith and others versus the railway company. He said:—The evidence of Mr. Turner and Sir Henry Oakley and the tables put in by them, satisfy me that there has been a substantial increase in the working expenses in the coal traffic large enough to cover the increase of rate. I think, therefore, that the defendants have discharged themselves of the burden cast upon them, and have shown that the expenses of conveying their coal traffic have increased to an extent much greater than the increase of rate, and that this increase is attributable to general causes affecting the whole coal traffic and therefore that of the applicants.That consideration of increased wages and salaries comes up again in the case of Charlow Collieries Company versus the North-Eastern Railway Company, and at great length in the classic case of Smith and Forrest versus the London and Northwestern Railway Company and ten other railway companies. In all those cases the question of increased cost of working and increased cost of labour was pleaded, and successfully pleaded. I have never yet been able to understand why could not the railway companies, if they did settle the strike by higher wages, have raised the rates, and, in the extraordinarily doubtful case of their being challenged, which does not occur once in a thousand times, those increased rates could be justified in the ordinary course before the Railway and Canal Commission. Why could they not do what they had done over and over again before? In the course of this long-drawn controversy I have never been able to understand why they did not wish to adopt that course, unless the railway companies wanted to be put 1609 in a better position than they were under by the Act of 1894.
Undoubtedly, if the original Clause stood as it was in the Bill originally, and which I have no doubt was highly approved of by railway managers, the railway companies would have obtained something very much to their advantage. They would have obtained a Bill which would have put on the trader the burden of proof, though how he was to do it I never could understand. That would have put them in a very much superior position than they were under the Act of 1894. Now I understand another reason is advanced to-day by the President of the Board of Trade. He said there was a legal doubt. We never heard when it was expressed or whether it is shared by the Railway and Canal Commissioners. We are told there is a legal doubt as to this question: whether, if you generally increase the wages all over your line you can then raise the rates and justify the increase in a particular rate, the cost of which may not have gone up at all, by pointing out that you have increased the wages on an entirely different part of your line. If that is the contention I can understand it. Of course there is no possibility under the present law, nor ought there to be any possibility under any law, of any such absurd proposal being entertained. It means that if a railway company improved the conditions and wages in one of their hotels, say in London, they could thereby justify an increase in the rates of coal, say in the Midlands. That is a very new principle to lay down in railway legislation, and it is a principle which I do not think the traders ever will or ought to accept. Under the Act of 1894 the Railway and Canal Commission always held that the railway company must show that the particular traffic whose rates they are raising is more costly to handle, and not a mere general statement, "We have increased our wages and shortened our hours, and we propose to increase the rates from Manchester to Warrington on coal so much per ton."
It seems to me that the practical point is that there is an increase of a particular rate from a particular station to a particular station on a particular trader's goods of a particular kind. That is the only way in which an increase of rate can be raised by the trader at all before the Railway and Canal Commission. He cannot go there on the general ground that the whole of the coal rates have been 1610 raised. He can only go there on the ground that his rates from A to B, on coal which he is sending from A to B, have been raised, and that that increase, as far as it applies to his traffic, is unreasonable. That has been entirely overlooked by the President of the Board of Trade today. He interpreted the Bill in a most extraordinary manner, and one which surprised us who are used to dealing with these matters. He said that the increase in the passenger trade could be set against the working cost under Clause 1 (c). But the title of the Bill is "a Bill to amend Section 1 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894." The Commissioners have always interpreted Section 1 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894, as dealing entirely with the rates or charges of good traffic. They have declined, and I think will continue to decline, to hear anybody who tries to talk about passenger traffic. If under this Bill anyone appears before the Railway and Canal Commission, and says, "I wish to prove that passengers' fares have been increased by 10 per cent.," the Court will answer, "We have nothing to do with passenger fares; we have no jurisdiction over them, and we rule out your evidence." If the Government had passed the Amendment of the Act of 1894 proposed, I think in Clause 1 (2) of the first Railway Bill, by which they were going to give the Railway and Canal Commissioners control over passenger fares, that contention might have held good.
This is a very important point; that is why I press it. If you simply interpret this Bill, according to its title, as amending the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894, every legal authority will confirm my statement that the Railway and Canal Commission have interpreted that Act as dealing entirely with goods traffic and not with passenger traffic, and consequently in interpreting this Bill they will not allow any regard to be had to what has happened in connection with passenger traffic or passenger fares. Whatever the intention may be, unless those words are altered, that is what I am advised, and I believe rightly, will undoubtedly happen. One of the defects of the Bill as drawn in the beginning is that this fact has not been clearly grasped. Continually we have passenger and goods traffic and wages intermingled in the Bill. For instance, I do not know whether under the Bill an increase of the wages paid to the servants engaged in passenger traffic could or could not be argued by the railway company. I 1611 believe the intention has been that it could. I am, however, a little doubtful on the point now, because it seems to me that if the Railway and Canal Commission will not allow an argument to be raised as to an increase of passenger fares they may also refuse to allow railway companies to argue with regard to an increase in the cost of handling passenger traffic. At any rate, that point wants to be cleared up.
It is suggested the company have to show an increase of cost in the working of the whole of their system, and not in the cost of working the goods traffic only, and that therefore they have to bring in the question of improving the conditions of employment of their passenger staff. It cannot be argued that the railway companies cannot and do not habitually separate the labour cost of their goods traffic and the labour cost of their passenger traffic. As a matter of fact, our experience before the Railway and Canal Commission has shown that when railway companies want to separate the labour cost, even of one particular form of traffic, such as coal or anything else, they are perfectly able to do it, and continually do so. The argument that you cannot separate the cost will never be made by a practical railway manager. This question goes to the very root of the Bill. Another point of considerable importance to us is that no allowance is made for any economies which railway companies may be able to secure in other directions. Changes are constantly occurring. The electrification of our railways is going on at an increasingly rapid rate. In a few years' time the whole cost of railway working may be entirely different from what it is to-day. It is really an absurd time at which to introduce such a limited Bill. The railway company have to prove that the rise in the cost of working the railway results from improvements in the conditions of employment of their staff. I understand that that has been interpreted by the President of the Board of Trade to mean that the total cost of working the railway must be higher than it is at the present time. It does not seem to me that that is very clearly carried out. I would rather read it as meaning that there has been a rise in the cost of the labour part of working the railway owing to the improvement of the conditions of employment. Paragraph (b) is quite simple, and paragraph (c) is not very objectionable—that the increase of rates or charges made for the purpose of meeting the rise 1612 in the cost of working is not, on the whole, greater than is reasonably required for the purposes.That is a very simple point to ascertain; in fact it would be almost impossible to deny such a statement made on expert evidence. But when you come to paragraph (d)—
that the proportion of the increase of rates' or charges allocated to the particular, traffic with respect to which the complaint is made is not unreasonable…it seems to me from the way in which the Bill is interpreted that you are not to deal with the increase on a particular traffic, but you are to say, "My labour bill has gone up, and I allocate so much to this particular traffic." If that is so, it will be impossible for anybody to argue whether it is reasonable or unreasonable. I do not see what basis you have to go upon. I do not see what statistics could be utilised to enable anybody to determine what proportion of a general increase was reasonable or unreasonable in regard to a particular kind of traffic. The Bill would not be so bad if you had not to turn over the page. The paragraph continues:the Commissioners shall treat the increase of rate or charge as justified.They are two innocent-looking lines, but they make a very great inroad into the freedom of the Commissioners as it exists to-day in the matter of determining what is a reasonable or an unreasonable increase of rate. The Commissioners are empowered to determine whether an increase of rate is reasonable. In considering whether it is reasonable or not under the provisions of the Act of 1894, in accordance with the judgment of Mr. Justice Wright, in the case of Smith and Forrest versus London and North-Western and other Companies, they are not precluded from having regard to any circumstance which may tend either to justify the increase or to prove it "unreasonable," That is a very wide freedom. The Commissioners might decide that for a particular kind of traffic the increase was such that it would kill that traffic, and was therefore unreasonable. They might decide that for particular reasons of that character, or for reasons of a different character. That freedom is entirely taken away from the Commissioners under the Bill as it stands to-day. If the railway companies can show that the cost of working is high, that they are paying better wages, that the 1613 allocation is not unreasonable, and so on, the Commissioners would have no option but to declare, whether or not the increase is justified, they are bound to declare. That raises a very, very serious point, and I would like to hear from the Board of Trade as to whether they would not consider that point, and change the very peremptory word "shall"—an extraordinary word to use of this tribunal of high standing—and to replace it by the more reasonable word "may." That would introduce what would be considered by many of us a concession of considerable value in a Bill in respect of its future working, and one which would make us more reconciled to a measure which we have certainly no great love for.
There is another point which I want to raise which ought, I think, to be raised here. There is the very important and serious question of undue preference. That question may arise in the following shape: An increase of rates having been justified under this Bill, and a decision given by the Commissioners in favour of the company, the company discover at a later date that another or a similar kind of business has got a lower rate. They might desire to go to the Commissioners on the ground of undue preference, but they will probably be informed that they cannot reopen that question, because the increase has been declared, sanctioned, and the matter is res judicata I raise that point because of a case that happened some time ago in a reverse direction in connection with cartage at Hull and Goole. The cartage at Hull was free; the cartage at Goole was charged for. The traders at Goole went to the Railway and Canal Commissioners on the ground of undue preference, and the Court decided it was undue preference, but gave no directions how the matter was to be dealt with. The railway company raised the rates and charged for cartage at Hull; whereupon the Hull traders went to the Railway and Canal Commissioners and objected to the increased rates. The Court held they could not change it on the ground of increased rates, as they had already given a decision on the ground of undue preference. You may get this difficulty in a reverse way, and in a much more serious way under this Bill by separating in a way part of the issue and appealing on one particular, point. That is a very serious thing, because, after all, I do not know why you should not appeal on the question of increased rates on the same 1614 condition as in other alterations. If you are going to deal with this matter at all the whole matter ought to be dealt with. The question is one for very serious consideration, and I mention it in order to draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to it at a later stage.
I have said we do not like this Bill. I may say that the traders feel, and have some right to feel, the way they have been treated in this matter. We have a Board of Trade—in my judgment a Board of Railways. The traders of the country are concerned in this and similar legislation very considerably, and the poor trade is treated as a kind of Cinderella. We have in a humble way for years now been asking for an Owners' Risk Rates Bill, and a Bill was practically passed through this House by common consent six years ago in a form approved by the Board of Trade. All are agreed that something should be done, but we never get anything done. We never get pledges that the Government are "honourably bound to fulfil" as in the case of the railway companies. It is only railway directors that manage to do that, and the traders will only succeed in getting what they want by pressure on any Government, I do not care what its political complexion. You have again the question of station to station rates and the question of terminal charges. You have got endless questions concerning traders, and agriculturists, and questions industrial. We never get, although we try very hard, one little Clause to deal with one of our grievances. Why have we not got what we require? Because the railway directors will not agree to our having it. That is the only reason. The Board of Trade, I know, are anxious to do something for us. Why have they not succeeded in doing it? Because it is vetoed by the "power behind the throne." The traders are a long-suffering body. Personally, I shall be pleased to move the Resolution that stands on the Paper in my name in order to give them an opportunity of showing whether or not they agree to this, and to show that they are not to be treated in this way. Year by year our grievances are going on and becoming intensified. Facilities are being withdrawn every day.
We have had during the last six years Debates and speeches in this House upon this subject, and the only result of our agitation and our conferences has been this very ironical one, that the railway I companies are going to have it made 1615 easier for them to increase the rates of the traders. It reminds me of the amusing Chinese play I saw the other night at the St. James's Theatre. That is the result of all our efforts. We have not had any kind of pledge or any kind of promise from the President of the Board of Trade. He has given us no indication that he will do anything for us or will endeavour to do anything for us either now or in the near future. In all seriousness I would say that this cannot continue. I do not think that either the Board of Trade or those in the Government realise the feeling that is growing in the country amongst business men of all kinds, classes, politics, and creeds. I would readily acknowledge the friendliness of the President of the Board of Trade and his readiness to discuss these matters in a friendly and conciliatory manner, but I must say when it comes to the actual facts what, we have to do is this: We are asked to vote for a Bill under a pledge which we considered unnecessary; which the Government never asked whether we would accept. It is our credit being used once more in order to pay somebody else's debt.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to second the Amendment standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea. It is also standing in my name. I entirely agree with the concluding remarks of the hon. Member's speech. I would like to emphasise the fact that in this Bill every consideration is left out except the one consideration that the Board of Trade or the Government had at the particular moment that they entered into the contract, of which this Bill is to be the justification and fulfilment. Every question that relates to the trade of the country, every question that relates to the advance of science, and to improvement in transit, not only in this country, but in every other, and the gradual reduction in the cost of moving goods, all these things are left out entirely, and the railway companies are given carte blanche to shift their liability on to the shoulders of the trading community as a whole. I object to this vicarious generosity on the part of the Board of Trade. It is very easy for a Government Department to pursue that course, and when they find themselves up against serious responsibilities and have to carry out a definite policy which is to protect the interests of the trade of a country to say. "We will shift 1616 our responsibility on to the shoulders of the directors of the railway companies, and we will pass a short Bill in order to enable them in turn to shift their responsibility on to the shoulders of the traders as a whole." I say there is no proof whatever, as is supposed by this Bill, that there is to be a rise in the cost of working the railway companies, or that it is possible to prove that that is directly due to the increase of wages or emoluments of the staffs.
I suggest that there are various circumstances, entirely opposed and widely differing, which are all operating every day upon the cost of working our railways and upon the ratio between expenditure and gross receipts; and it is not right to pass a Bill to enable the railway companies in effect to say, "We have given an increase of a penny an hour to our men, and we must pass it on to the trading community." In Sub-section (c) the word "reasonable" is used, and in Sub-section (d) the word "unreasonable" is used. In these Sections we have these vague words, which are to have an effect like the word "Mesopotamia," and are to provide a good deal of work for lawyers in arguing the meaning that these words are to bear. The railway companies are to be enabled to exercise a little generosity, and then they are to say, "It costs us so much but it has nothing to do with our management or with the handling of our goods, and therefore you must allow us to pass it on to the shoulders of the trading community." This Bill is mandatory in character, as the hon. Baronet has pointed out, so that the Railway and Canal Commissioners are directed as to exactly under what circumstances the railway companies may prove their case. I think that is a monstrous proposition. My next reason for objecting to this Bill is that I see in the very first lines of the Bill that the increase is to be within the maximum. I regard that as simply throwing dust in the eyes of the traders. These maximum rates were settled over twenty years ago, and to say as long as they are within the maximum that that is any kind of protection is almost an insult. The next thing I desire to point out—and I merely mention it in order to show that I have not overlooked it—is that I see no injustice in the present law and no difficulty in dealing fairly between the railway companies and the traders; there is no legislation required whatever. If all the relevant circumstances of the case are taken into consideration, the Railway and Canal Commissioners have already power, and 1617 I could quote a number of cases which show that they have used that power of taking into consideration this very factor of increased wages for the staff of railway companies in considering whether an increase of railway rates is justified or not. Against that we have the fact that there is undoubtedly the practice in that Court of taking into consideration what are the relevant economies and legitimate economies as one which is absolutely essential to take into consideration when dealing with this question at all. When I went with the deputation to the President of the Board of Trade in October last this very question was raised and discussed, and he said in effect that it was the intention of this Bill to take into consideration economies which resulted directly from increased pay of the railway servants. He said where that is the direct relation the onus will clearly be upon them to show that it was a net addition to their expenditure. I do not see that even with that limitation that this principle is recognised in the Bill, but I am perfectly certain that it was clear to that deputation that it was not the intention of the Board of Trade at all to take into consideration the whole of the great questions which are not directly connected with the wages of labour, but which operate to increase or decrease the cost of working the traffic of the country. Therefore we come to this, that this is a Hill to say that if in one particular direction the railway companies do what every trader in the country is doing, and will be bound to do, that is, gradually to pay better wages to the wage-earning classes of the country, the railway companies are to be the one trade in the country who are not to make their proper arrangements to bear their own burdens, but are to have a Bill passed through Parliament to throw them upon the country. What is the effect of that? Railway companies could not exist; railway dividends, of which we hear a good deal, would dwindle away to nothing; but for the trade of the country which they have to carry, and we are to embark upon the principle that it does not matter what arrangements they make to increase the cost in one direction, they are always to be able to diminish the amount of the traffic they carry by increasing the cost of carriage in another direction—by imposing fresh burdens upon the country. That is not in the interests of the working classes, because they depend upon the prosperity of the trade of the country, and 1618 that depends upon many factors and among them largely on a reasonable cost of transit.
What is the cost of carrying goods in this country? We are saddled here with the cost which is twice as high per ton mile as any of our continental competitors, which is three times as high as it is in the United States of America; while that is so, it is perfectly monstrous to say that there can be no economy that the railway companies can carry out, and that if there is to be any increase to the railway companies they must throw it on to the trading community, and still further increase the monstrous rates which now are charged for carrying goods. The point has been already made that there is no proof that the increase in wages will directly increase the cost of work. It has been indicated that great economies have been made in one direction. Locomotives were referred to; the traction power of locomotives has increased enormously; in the last thirty years it has nearly doubled. Look at the trainloads they can haul now. What docs that mean? Firemen and engine-drivers ought to be paid more for driving locomotives that haul twice as much as formerly, and the railway companies think it proper to take the whole of the advantage they derive from the natural increase in the improvements and facilities due to the march of science. It is a wholly wrong arrangement altogether. On this question of what is reasonable or unreasonable it is idle to put those words in this Bill or argue the question at all until the members of the trading community have had real accounts put before the Board of Trade which the trade can analyse and judge for themselves. I understand there was a Departmental Committee in 1910, which considered the question of railway accounts and statistics, and it was then settled that it was desirable, in the interests of the trading community, that reasonable railway accounts should be rendered, but nothing has been done. Until we have reasonable railway accounts rendered, and until we can plainly see to what the increased cost of working is due, and where the economies come in, it is impossible for anybody to say that the increase in wages is a factor which ought to be charged as an increase of rates. Besides that, all these economies, speaking broadly, are due to advances in improved methods, better railway beds, improved steel rails which have superseded the old iron rails, and the best railway tracks in 1619 the world, as well as the best locomotives; and once our trains get going we need not fear comparison with any country in the world. The whole question can be summed up as one of getting the load behind the locomotive which the railway companies have not tackled, and they are still using methods more suitable for the forties and the fifties.
This is not the moment to go forward and lay down that if there is any increase in wages the cost should be charged on the trade of the country. It is not as though there had been a decrease in the ratio of expenditure to gross receipts, because it is exactly the opposite. In 1870 that ratio was 48 per cent., and in 1911 it was 62 per cent. If you translate that gigantic difference into pounds sterling, you come to the conclusion, speaking in the absence of detailed account, which we ought to have, that although the gross receipts per mile have very nearly doubled in that period, the increase being from £2,900 to £5,400 per mile, in spite of that and all the economies brought about by improved methods of traction, and improved railway beds, we find that there is a difference of £17,000,000 a year, which, if the companies had been able to maintain even their old ratio, which depended upon a primitive state of the science of haulage, there would have been £17,000,000 a year in the way of economy which the railway shareholders and workers could have shared without imposing any increased burden upon the trade of the country at all. Hon. Members specially interested in justifying the position of the railway directors might point to the increase in rates and taxes. That accounts for about £4,000,000 out of £17,500,000, and we have still £13,500,000 unaccounted for. I say, without hesitation, if the railway companies did not preserve their one relic of what used to be competition, that is this stupid jealousy and isolation in certain directions, and if they would co-operate to deal with the problem of getting the goods traffic of a certain centre on to their railways by a central clearing house in the centre of London, instead of having seventy-four railway goods stations, with 700 trains travelling every day simply between one goods station and another; if they would concentrate their attention on that problem, there is the biggest field for economy and the biggest business proposition ever put before any country.
1620 The whole of the figures have been gone into by Mr. Edgar Harper, and he has estimated the cost of the central clearing house at £14,000,000, and the saving £9,000,000 a year. While there are these gigantic possibilities, which must appeal to every hon. Member of this House, while the goods stations are of one dimension and spread out until it becomes impossible to handle the goods traffic except by the antiquated methods they now use, we shall never make any advance. The companies still use the little hand-truck, and instead of adopting an electric system which costs ½d. per horse-power, the methods they adopt cost 3s. 4d. per horse-power per hour. To say that we must pass a Bill to make good the cost of the increase in wages, while these gigantic economies lie at their feet which they will not touch because it would necessitate real co-operation between the different railway companies of the country, while that state of things exists, it is monstrous to ask us, as representing the trading community of the country, through the mouth of the President of the Board of Trade, to deal with this question in this niggling and pettifogging manner as if there were not great economies to be made which the railway companies will not touch, and as if we had any right to lift railway companies into a position of singular privilege, and at the same time make all the rest of the traders not only bear their own burdens, but the burdens of the railway companies as well. Until the railway companies can show us a reasonable cost of goods transit there should be no question of increased railway rates. I realise that there is one great handicap to the trade of this country which can largely be removed and which this Bill proposes to increase, and that is the monstrous cost of handling the goods traffic of the country. Those who support the railway interests will say, "Surely we do not get too much dividend. "What I say is that you should blame the right people. There is plenty of dividend to be earned and plenty of opportunities of paying good wages if you will only scrap the antiquated method of getting the goods on to your railway and deal with this question in the same manner as you have dealt with haulage.
§ Mr. GLANVILLE
I have listened to this Debate from the time it commenced, and I quite agree and realise that the circumstances which have led to the introduction of this Bill indicate that the proper 1621 solution of the entire question of railway management is the national ownership of the whole of the railways in the Kingdom. Unfortunately we cannot get there yet, and we have to pass this Bill, and although we are inclined to support it with the feeling that if any undue disadvantage comes out of this Bill to the nation, it will go into the pockets of the individual railway shareholder and railway companies rather than into the pockets of the State, which would be the case if the railways had been nationalised. Hon. Members have talked about the carriage of goods and the nation's trade, but I think we must get back to that which led to the introduction of the Bill. We, all of us, remember the railway strike, and I think there were very few Members in the House at that time who would have suggested we should not be prepared to pay proper wages to the workers on the railways even if the nation had to pay something extra in consequence of the handling and carrying of goods and passengers. That was the origin of the negotiations the Government conducted with the railway companies. I do not think they were in any respect satisfactory. The Government agreed for the sake of peace and for the sake of settling the strike that the railway companies should have certain concessions made to them. I think the Government were very much to blame for not deliberately laying down what concessions the companies should be forced to make to the men when they were giving a promise to them that they would introduce this Bill. I have heard the Government attacked because they have introduced this Bill, and I have heard the Government attacked many times lately because they had not introduced it, so it seems to me utterly impossible for them to satisfy the whole of the Members of the House whatever attitude they take up.
The whole of this question arises in connection with the wages of the men working on the railways, and not in connection with the handling of the goods of the nation. It rises entirely because the men working for the railway companies did not think they were, and do not think they are getting a living wage. That produced the strike, and possibly may produce another. It is because this Bill opens the door to the possibility of railway companies in future, as well as since August, 1911, dealing with the men in their employ and meeting them, and takes away from the railway companies the 1622 power of saying to the men "We cannot do this; we cannot afford to do it," that I am prepared to support the Bill at the present time. I trust it will be amended later on, but, if it is not, I am afraid I shall have to vote against it ultimately. If we can get out of this Bill that which will give to the men who work for the railway companies something approaching to a living wage, then I for one am prepared to see an extra charge for the handling of the nation's goods by the railway companies' servants. I have something like 2,000 railway men in my Constituency, and I do not believe half of them get a wage of more than £l a week. They have to pay 7s. a week rent for two rooms, and, if they try to get more wages, they are told by the railway company, and truthfully told, "We are not paying adequate dividends to our shareholders." I have no particular interest in the railway companies or their shareholders, but I realise the difficulty of the position, and it is because I want to see the men working for the railway companies treated the same as the men claimed to be treated and were treated when they turned out in the original dock strike—it is because I want to see them get a fair living wage—that I am prepared at this particular point to support this measure. The railway companies have been allowed even too long to work their men on starvation wages. If this measure goes through, their position will be weaker and even more rotten than it has been in the past, and it is for that reason I am prepared to support the Government on this Bill trusting something drastic to coerce the railway companies may be introduced at a later stage.
§ Mr. FIELD
I happen to be the first Irishman to speak on this question. The Irish railways have been brought into the discussion in a very extraordinary fashion. I entirely agree with what has been said by certain Members with regard to accounts not being furnished by the railway companies. They do not want to furnish any accounts. They do not want to give any information whatever. When you ask for a rate book at certain Irish stations, they say it is not printed. They will charge you a certain rate, but give you as little information as possible. Some hon. Member to-night made the suggestion that we ought to have a Royal Commission. I do not agree with that suggestion. I sat on a Committee of this House shortly after I came here twenty years ago 1623 to my misfortune. Mr. Mundella, the President of the Board of Trade, was Chairman. It sat for almost two years, and the result was nil. My experience is that there is a kind of imperium in imperio in this Assembly, and, no matter what may be the result of a Committee or Commission, the railway interest in this House so permeates the majority of the Members and so governs the Government that you really can do nothing with them. My experience of the Board of Trade is that of the hon. Member who said, instead of it being a Board of Trade, it was a Board of Railways.
The rates on the Irish railways at the present time are the highest in the world, and unless I am entirely mistaken, the pay of the railway men in Ireland is almost the lowest in the world. I have had some connection with the Amalgamated Railway Servants Society's operations in Ireland, and I know that, as a matter of fact, there was more trouble in Ireland in bringing the Conciliation Boards into operation than in any other part of the three Kingdoms. If this Bill is extended to Ireland, I believe it will do more harm to the traders of Ireland than perhaps to the traders in any other part of the three Kingdoms. I am, and I always have been, a believer in the nationalisation of railways. I think there will be no proper settlement of this question until the rail ways of Great Britain and Ireland are either nationalised or brought under proper control. I believe all public utilities ought to be owned and operated for the benefit of the people. The President of the Board of Trade, in his very peculiar speech in introducing the measure, talked about recouping the railways for the increased expenditure on account of giving the men more wages. He said, "Why could not the railways act in the same way as private tracers?" The railways are in an entirely different position from a private trader. A private trader has to meet competition, but the railways at the present time have to meet no competition. I happen to know something about railway affairs because I have studied them, and unless I am mistaken, the railway companies in the three Kingdoms are pooled, so that it makes no difference whether you send your goods by one railway or another. Any profit that may result is divided amongst the whole railways. Therefore, there is no competition. It is practically 1624 a monopoly; and what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade stated cannot be true. The position of the railway companies is entirely different from that of private traders.
There is no public control. We have what is called a Railway and Canal Commission, but what does that amount to? It means that if you go to that Commission with regard to any matter in dispute you want to have a very large sum of money in your hands. I happen to be a member of the Port and Docks Board in Dublin. We had a dispute with the Irish railways, and it cost us £4,000 to settle it. You want some kind of cheap tribunal to step in and settle these disputes between traders and railway companies. I have every sympathy with the railway men, in whose interests, we are told, this Bill has been brought in. I want the railway men to be better paid. I do not agree that traders have no sympathy with railway men, and I venture to say that their representatives in this House have, like the Nationalist party, shown great sympathy with Labour Members and done all they could to help them. But there are other parties concerned in this matter besides the railway men. There are the traders. The President of the Board of Trade is supposed to represent trade. What is being done for trade in this Bill? Suppose you had no trade in the three kingdoms, what would become of the railways? The parties most interested in this matter are left out of consideration altogether. The parties concerned are the public, the traders, the railway men, and the railway owners; the public and the traders are practically left outside. We have heard a good deal about railway men being victimised. I agree that under no circumstances should a railway servant who has made a stand for his class be victimised. But neither should the passengers be. They are entitled to the same protection as every other class in the community.
There is one particular grievance I want to bring before the President of the Board of Trade. I do not know whether he can deal with it at present. It is the question of the owner's risk rate. Some hon. Members have alluded to it very briefly, but it appeals to me that the absence of an owner's risk rate, making the railway as carriers liable for what they carry, is a grievance felt in regard to the whole system of our railways. As a matter I of fact, in Ireland we are obliged to sign 1625 consignment notes which absolve the railway company from all liability of any kind whatsoever. They may deliver our stock at Liverpool or not, they are not liable for any loss thereby caused. It is time the Board of Trade carried out in a spirit of humanity their administration of the railways. I submit that these consignment notes are illegal, but still, if you do not find them, the companies will not carry the goods at all. Then, again, they have what they call terminable rates, and here, too, there is a grievance. The majority of the people who use the Irish railways really have not money enough to go into litigation before the Railway and Canal Commission. I would respectfully and urgently request the President of the Board of Trade to give more attention to these matters. Apparently, he thinks he has nothing to do but to bring in a Bill of this kind in order to get it passed by the House.
This is a very serious matter. The whole of the enormous volume of commerce in this country, particularly our inland commerce, to a very great extent depends on the manner and cheapness with which the goods are carried. The people of England apparently think the idea of nationalisation is played out, and that anyone who talks about it is a red-hot Socialist. But as a matter of fact, all over the world, the nationalisation of railways is progressing, and America, which was the paradise of private-owned railways, has come to recognise the fact that public control must, in the great interests of the community, be exercised over the railways. I have studied this question. I know that it has produced marvellous results in America. It has bettered the condition of the railway men. Although I am inclined to vote for this Bill, simply because I cannot help it, I want to warn the President of the Board of Trade he must not imagine that this is going to be a permanent settlement of the railway question. If he thinks that, he is under an entire mistake. The only reason why I vote for this Bill is because I want to see the railways carried on. I do not want another strike. I want the business of the country carried on. This railway question is closely concerned with the commercial prosperity of the country and it undoubtedly is in the most unsatisfactory condition. You cannot have a good service unless you have a contented staff, and if you want good and honest work you must pay a decent wage, and you must not allow a system of victimisation because certain men make a stand for their fellows and participate in a 1626 strike. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will approach this matter in a more generous spirit, that he will consult not only the railway directors, who, I know, claim that they have to protect the interests of the shareholders, but that he will bear in mind above all things that the peace, prosperity, and well-being of the people is at stake. If the railway shareholders imagine that they will be allowed to tyrannise over the people and get further liberties they are entirely mistaken. I am sure the time will come when not only the railway directors but the President of the Board of Trade will be obliged to succumb to public opinion in this matter.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I wish to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to a point which is interesting to me as a Member for a Highland county. I quite recognise that the Government is placed in a position from which it cannot retreat During the strike of 1911 it made this bargain, and in honour it is bound to fulfil it. Though I confess that I rather objected at the time to such a bargain being made on behalf of the Government, I made the best of what was actually done, and I hoped that if the Government did fulfil its side of the bargain the railway companies would also fulfil, in the spirit and in the letter, what I conceived to be their side of the bargain, in other words, I thought that all the railway companies in the country would at least bring back their trains to the status quo ante; that is to say, that all the facilities which had been given for the convenience of the public before the strike, should be restored. The first Railways Bill which my right hon. Friend introduced, I carefully studied, and I was going to make the best of a bad job, and had persuaded myself to be satisfied with it. One condition in that Bill was that if any railway company did withdraw such facilities as I have mentioned, that such withdrawal should be treated in the same way as the raising of a rate was treated, namely, that it might be challenged by the public, whose convenience had not been consulted, before the Railway and Canal Commission. What has happened? We have heard a great deal about the benefits which are to be got by railway companies, and we have heard a great deal about the protection of traders; but, so far as I am aware, no single hon. Member, on one side of the House or the other, regretted very particularly in any case the position 1627 in which the ordinary public are compelled to find themselves by the introduction of either the first Railways Bill or this one. I think the first consideration of the House of Commons should be the convenience of the public. Railway companies, by legislative decrees and otherwise, have had enormous benefits conferred upon them, and Parliament, as representing the people, has given the companies those benefits because they recognised that in the long run they would be capable of allowing the public in this country to have proper facilities.
The particular example which is in my mind at the present moment is the case of the Highland Railway Company. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down spoke of the fact that there is now no competition between the railways. At any rate, there has been in recent years a considerable abandonment of competition. You have in the North of Scotland only one company—the Highland Railway Company—which has a complete monopoly. For many years before the strike there ran from Inverness a train which left that town at 10.50 at night, which was called the midnight mail. The railway company for years past has found its dividends increasing. Up to the strike that train ran every night. It was a great convenience to the public. The agricultural farmer from the North, tradesmen, business men, and men who had business correspondents in the North, found themselves in the South in one night. What has happened? If a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Cathcart Wason), or my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness (Mr. R. L. Harmsworth), wishes to go to Glasgow or Edinburgh, he has to take two days to perform that journey, simply because the Highland Railway Company has not fulfilled what I say in honour bound it ought to fulfil, in the spirit and the letter, that part of the agreement which my right hon. Friend made with the railway companies. I do not blame the Government for that. I did blame the Government until I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend. Then I saw that the present small Bill of one Clause was forced upon him by the various interests which he found represented by deputations and otherwise at the Board of Trade. While I grudgingly give my support to this Bill to-day—I do so very reluctantly indeed, but I can see that the right hon. Gentleman 1628 has been forced to introduce this short Bill—I hope that in the course of future discussions, possibly in Committee, that he will see his way to introduce such a term as I suggest, namely, that the abandonment of facilities which existed before the strike should be treated in exactly the same way as the question of the raising of the rates, in other words, that if the railway companies who have made this fortunate bargain with the Government choose not to keep it in the spirit and the letter, then the public, whose convenience is not being consulted at all, should have the right under the Bill to approach the Railway and Canal Commission and have their interests consulted and proper facilities given.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
One realises that the President of the Board of Trade is in a very difficult position in this matter. It is perfectly true that the whole of the trouble arose at the time of the strike in August, 1911. The Government interfered. They were bound to interfere when they were called upon by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, and they brought, to a large extent, this difficulty and trouble upon themselves. If they had treated the strikers then as the Chancellor of the Exchequer afterwards treated the doctors who showed signs of striking, we should have had none of this trouble with these railway people. I am sure the railway companies could have managed the difficulties with which they were brought face to face, had it not been for Government interference.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
Government interference with what?
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
Government interference in the meetings which were held, and the negotiations and arrangements which led to the agreement which is the foundation of this Bill. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite had at that time a very important influence on the Government. They had considerable voting strength in this House, which was of importance to the Government, and, of course, was only natural that the Government at that time should endeavour by every means to secure a continuance of that support. The doctors to whom I have referred had very little support, naturally they were left in the lurch, and I am very sorry to see they have collapsed.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) talked about 100,000 railwaymen who at the time of the strike received less than £1 a week, and who, in consequence of the strike, had been able to get an increase in their wages up to £1 a week. I have a very great interest in this measure, because I represent a constituency where £1 a week is considered great wealth. My people have nothing like £1 a week; 13s. or 15s. a week is what they earn. If this Bill is passed in the form in which it is submitted to the House, it will mean a heavy tax upon their industry, which is agriculture. Agriculture has to bear a heavy freight in its conveyance to market. If this Bill is passed in its present form it will put up the railway rates. It is very easy to put them on the people who are not here, or not directly represented, and little by little the people I represent will be oppressed by these increased rates. I put a question to the President of the Board of Trade about imports of foreign milk. Here for the first time within the last few months, a trade has sprung up—mine is a dairy constituency—in foreign milk. I believe a year ago there were practically no imports of foreign milk. The answer which the President of the Board of Trade gave me to-day showed that during December last ninety-three tons of foreign milk were imported at Southampton alone. That is a new business, and it is a competitive business. It is going to oppress the poorest of the poor—my Constituents—and unless we watch very carefully a Bill of this sort an increased burden will be put on agriculture which will make it more difficult for the farmer to exist and more difficult for him to pay the living wage to his workers which we should all like to see him pay. A great deal of criticism has been directed against the railways. We are told that all would be well if the railways were nationalised. I am no believer in nationalisation. I have a pretty intimate acquaintance with railway men, and I have no hesitation in stating that our British railway men are the most competent and the most intelligent railway men in the world. I mean those who have the management and control of the railways.
§ Mr. TERRELL
Directors and managers and the responsible heads of the different departments. Is there any country in the world where the record for speed and safety combined is as high as it is in this 1630 country? The American railroad man imagines that he is very go-a-head, and that he knows everything that is to be known, but he is not above coming over here and poking round among our railways and finding out little developments which help him in his country. Of course, when you make comparisons of traffic and big and small train loads, the conditions in different countries differ entirely. But taking our railway people as a whole, I think they are the most intelligent body in the world. I know them intimately, and I have no hesitation in expressing my opinion. Remarks have been made about nationalisation. You will only get an increased cost of working. You will not get the same competition which exists to-day —the best form of competition—to produce the best service. I regret that there is no competition in rates—that there is a sort of general pooling of rates—but there is the most valuable form of competition, and that is the competition to give the best service, and the result is that we who use the railways get the fullest benefit and the fastest and safest trains which the world produces. Of course, one feels that any increase in railway rates would be a heavy burden to the trade of the country. I have extracted some figures which show that in whatever direction we move we should not handicap ourselves by putting extra burdens on the trade of the country, because after all trade, to a large extent, depends upon the cheap transport of materials. I have figures showing that on material that is approximately worth £40 to £50 a ton the through rate from Cumberland to Sheerness is 74s. a ton. That is a terrific burden on the industry. Then there are other rates. From London to Cumberland for castings the rate is 38s. 6a. a ton. I have schedules of figures before me, and I can say that if, by reason of these arrangements which the Government propose, any serious addition is made to the rates the railway companies charge, it will indeed prejudice our trade.
I have put a Motion down on the Order Paper as a suggestion to this House that, while we should exclude our own home trade and our home industries from the operation of any increase in railway rates, there is no reason why we should not increase the rates on goods of foreign origin. I have no doubt that in due course I shall have an opportunity of moving my Motion if it is not out of order. That is the direction in which we should proceed, and I hoped that the President of the Board of 1631 Trade would have made a suggestion in that direction. If this Bill means the addition of any burdens on agriculture, I regret to say that at a later stage I shall have to oppose it vigorously, but if the Bill is going to leave things as they are—it is almost too much to hope that it will relieve agriculture, but certainly agriculture cannot afford any heavier burdens than it is at present bearing—I will support it. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will indicate that he is prepared to afford some relief to the agricultural interests of the country.
§ Mr. BARNES
I shall not follow the hon. Member in his extraordinary figures and statements, which are somewhat reminiscent of the more robust speeches about Protection and Tariff Reform which we used to have from those benches some years ago. But I rise to oppose the Bill. I grant that the Government were in a serious position in the Autumn of 1911, when a serious strike took place which had to be settled somehow or other. There was a serious position nationally and internationally, but I want to suggest to the Government that the railway directors were responsible for that serious position and should be held to their responsibility. A great deal has been said, and said truly, with regard to the absence of statistics. We have not any covering the railways as a whole in regard to wages and many other things, but promises were made by the railway companies that advances of wages should be given and that they would make it up in this way. Advances of wages have been given I am told by the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas), and no doubt some considerable improvement has been made, but in the absence of general figures now and again one comes across a sort of fragment of a tragedy showing what is going on even now. About ten days ago I read in a Scotch newspaper, I think the "Glasgow Herald," a resolution adopted by a public authority in a town called Kirkintilloch, close to Glasgow. The local school board there had had to deal with children who were going to school unfed, ill-clad, and not in a position to absorb the education provided for them. Public moneys were used to feed and clothe these children. Inquiry was made and it was found that the bulk of the fathers of these children, only a fortnight or three weeks ago, were men in the employ of a particular railway in the receipt of the magnificent wage of 19s. per week. 1632 That is to say, now eighteen months after promises were made by the railway companies we find the railways still being carried on, so to speak, as a parasitic industry, that the wages paid are insufficient to maintain a family in decency and comfort, and that actually the families of railway men are being maintained in part by public money. If there was no other reason than that I should vote against the Bill.
Two years ago we were told by Mr. Sidney Webb that 100,000 men were working for £1 a week, or under. I remember the Noble Lord opposite contested the statement, and in fact was indignant that it had been made. As a matter of simple fact, when the strike arose we found that 97,000 were working for £1 a week or less on these railways, and that at a time when we had the statement as the result of the investigation made by Mr. Seebohm Rowntree that 23s. 9d. was the lowest sum on which it was possible to keep a family, not in comfort and luxury, but in sufficient physical efficiency to enable the man to go and do his work. Since that time railway men up to now have not been getting a wage sufficient to keep them in physical comfort. I wish to point out the significant word "shall" in one of the Clauses. I think it is the first time I have ever seen "shall" in an Act of Parliament. The Commissioners are divested of all power as to what takes place between them and the railway companies. The railway companies put up a case that they have made certain advances in wages, and if they make out a case that they have spent so much as increased cost in the wage bill, then the Commissioners must give them the opportunity of making up that cost by putting on increased rates. To that I object.
I object to this Bill also on general grounds. It is really a subsidy to incompetence as well as a tax upon the people. Railway directors are now protected, and like all protected folk, in the absence of the spur and pressure of the outside world's competition, they carry on their business in a slovenly way. Mention has already been made of the waste on advertisements. That is palpable to anybody who goes into many of the towns and who sees great boards put up advertising the beauties of certain districts. That is not necessary, because the railway companies have arranged with one another to avoid competition. Take the railways running into Kent. You have two or three 1633 lines, and the town of Chatham is filled with railway stations. There is a railway station in almost every street, and a great number of unnecessary trains are run. I submit, if the wages of railway men were raised—and nobody can say that there was not need of it—these railway companies ought to have been left to make up that increase on the wages bill by increased efficiency, just as other people have had to do before. Sixty or seventy years ago great agitations were carried on in this country, having for their object the protection of factory workers—women and children. The hours of labour were reduced after a great deal of agitation. The factory owners at that time said that all their profit was made in the last hour, and that if it were cut off the factories and mills would have to be closed, with the result that ruin and devastation would stalk the land. The House of Commons was not deterred by that from passing the Factory Act, which gave women and children a little more leisure. The mill owners found more efficient ways of carrying on their industries. Scientific and improved methods were applied to them, and as a result the increased wages bill of the mill and factory owners was more than made up by the increased product due to the increased intelligence and improved health of the people, as well as by the more scientific methods of carrying on business. I would leave railway directors to do the same thing in making up the increased wages bill of their men.
A great deal has been said recently about a minimum wage for agricultural labourers. It is said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in favour of a minimum wage for agricultural labourers. I hope we shall find that agricultural labourers will get a minimum wage before long. Are we going to have the proposition put before us that that wage, or increased wage, shall be taken out of the increased price of food, because it seems to me the two things are exactly parallel one with another. If you are increasing the wages of railway men and enabling the companies to make up that by increased charges on the public, exactly the same arguments underlying that would support, it seems to me, the protection of food coming into the country, and enabling food raisers in this country to charge a higher price for it. I am not in favour of the one or the other. For my part I believe with the hon. Member for Bermond- 1634 sey (Mr. Glanville) that the ultimate solution of this problem is in the railways being run by the community for the community's good instead of the private profit of shareholders. We have had experience of that in regard to the public ownership of the trams in this country. Here in London, in the memory of many hon. Members, we had the old horse system— the greasy old system—which used to prevail under private ownership and control. You have the trams now owned by the county council. The men in that service have been given higher wages and shorter hours of labour, and there has been no need to charge higher fares. On the contrary the charge is not now more than half what it was at the time of the private companies. [An HON. MEMBER: "The ratepayers are paying for that."] If hon. Members object to the illustration from London, let them go to Glasgow, and they will see that exactly the same thing is taking place. The tramway system, instead of being for private profit, is now run for the public good, and a sum of from £90,000 to £100,000 a year is raised by the tramway system for public funds. That sort of thing is going to take place with the railways of the country, but I am going to do nothing that will increase the heavy imposts already laid upon the community by the idle shareholders.
§ Mr. THOMAS TAYLOR
It appears to me that many of the remarks to which we have listened are very wide of the immediate object of this Bill. We have had references to the interests of railway directors, and we have had enormous schemes propounded, such as the nationalisation of the railway, but surely this Bill has not got to wait for such schemes as those? I am not a railway shareholder; I have not a single share, and I have no brief for the railways, because when goods are charged more by the railways I shall have to pay, and I am already paying an extra on my contracts. But we are told that all the advances which already have been made will be deducted over and above the amount necessary to pay the net increase in the wages. I might find fault if I wished. I might say it is the fault of the railways that we have not the full benefit of the canals of the country. On the other hand, in reference to what has been said about the great advantages which railways derive from having new engines, steel rails, and all that, we have to remember that the railways have given us very superior accommodation compared 1635 with what we used to get even a couple of years ago. For instance, they have provided corridor carriages, with dining and lavatory accommodation, for third-class passengers. Then the railways themselves have been severely bled by the landlords of the companies. There is one point which has not been kept before the House, and, in my opinion, many of the speakers have forgotten it. The railway companies, when they have an advance in the cost of their manufacture—which is the carriage of goods— cannot charge it on the trader. They are not allowed to advance it. One hon. Member stated that it was unfair to the trader to make any advance as he has to stand his own increased expense. But traders as a rule do not stand the increased expense Manufacturers do not stand it. They just put it on. The consumer pays. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may disagree with that, but I tell them that it is so. The railways have made an agreement with the Government, and if they cannot advance the carriage of goods they may ask, "What are we to do? Are we to make a wholesale advance in the men's wages and not be able to meet it?" The country was in a state of chaos at the time that this agreement was made, and I fancy that if the country was to-night in the state in which it was when the Government made this promise to the railway companies, this House would honour the Government cheque, and that is what I propose to do.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
I always had the greatest respect for the hon. Member for Bolton for the way in which he won his election. Since his first speech in the House I must say that my opinion of his fairness has increased. His diagnosis of what is really in this Bill is quite accurate and worthy of praise, and I hope we shall have many occasions on which we shall be favoured with his remarks. If it is possible for a Tory and a railway director to speak without entering into polemics, T should like to say the few words I have to say on the settlement of this question. No railway director, no sensible man, on whichever side of the House he sits, could possibly think that this Bill was a permanent' settlement of all railway difficulties. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Dublin (Mr. Field) can hardly think in his heart that the effect of this Bill would be to enable such a singularly innocuous individual as myself to 1636 attempt to tyrannise over the British public. We have had, as we always have on railway affairs, a very long and interesting discussion, ranging over every possible subject connected with railways, railway accounts, railway promotions, and the nationalisation of railways—everything connected with the railway question. Though I have often envied the position of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, I confess that when I heard the various questions that were addressed to him, I did think that perhaps after all, the position of a private Member stated that it was unfair to the What is the discussion we are entering on to-night when the Government ask us to pass the Second Reading of this Bill? It is not really a case of a Liberal against a Conservative, or of railway directors against traders. It is absolutely and entirely a fulfilment of a pledge given by the Government, not a Liberal Government or a Radical Government, but given by the Government of this great country.
The circumstances were on an occasion of really momentous gravity. The directors of the great system that controls the railway industry of the country were asked to confer with the Government. They were requested by the Government of the day—it does not matter what Government it was—to come to the assistance of the Government in settling the strike that then took place. The directors, without consulting the shareholders or their interests, or doing anything except what they thought was really right at the moment, and I believe that they were right, to assist the Government of the day, at once promised their assistance in every possible way, not in accordance with their wishes, but what they believed was the necessity of the moment. In return, a pledge was given by the Government, and I for one never doubted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would fulfil to the letter any engagement he entered into. I think my trust in him has been fulfilled. I think this Bill does carry out the pledge of the Government. I could have wished it had been brought forward sooner. I agree with the President of the Board of Trade that had it been brought forward sooner, probably the opposition to-day would not have been so great. But that is an arguable point, and I said I did not wish to enter into polemics. I say, as a railway director, I think it does fulfil the pledge of the 1637 Government, and I would ask the House to think for one minute if it is not fair that the great industry which came to the assistance readily, and not grudgingly, with a cheerful heart, came at once to the assistance of the Government in a time of great national emergency, is not entitled to a fair fulfilment of that pledge. This is not Railways (No. 1) Bill; it is Railways (No. 2) Bill, which puts upon the companies the onus to prove their case before the Railway Commission; and when you look at the various surrounding safeguards, the whole of which tend more in favour of the Government than of the companies, I do not think that anyone can imagine that the railway companies have the best of the bargain. But we had no wish to make a bargain. We desired to assist the Government, and I think we showed our readiness to do so. In return the Government made certain pledges which they have fulfilled by bringing in this Bill, and, in the meantime, I ask the House—irrespective of whatever future reform may be needed in railway management, and I do not believe that the final word has arrived one way or the other, and when necessary we shall be ready to debate it and deal with it—to support the Government in carrying the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We have had a long and interesting Debate upon not merely the subject matter of this Bill, but, as my right hon. Friend reminded us, upon all matters connected with railway management. It is rather a difficult task in this House—and anyone who has been here long enough will realise it—to recommend any measure which seems in the slightest degree to favour railway companies. There is the whole combination of traders and agriculturists, chambers of commerce, representatives of labour, and all those who have a grievance, either a personal or a business one, against railway companies in general, and perhaps against some railway company in particular, and this Debate shows how prejudices raised among traders, agriculturists, and passengers really interfere to a certain extent with a decision, under this Bill, of a very limited issue. As I have been reminded in the very shrewd speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomas Taylor), we are not deciding great issues to-day. There are many questions raised by my hon. Friends below the Gangway with which I am in complete sympathy, and on which I 1638 have expressed in the House my views, and done my very best to promote some of their ideas. But they have nothing whatever to do with the issue we have got to decide in this Bill. Nationalisation may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it has nothing to do with this Bill. The grievances of the traders may be substantial, and I think they are; but they have nothing whatever to do with this Bill. I think there is a real grievance, and I have always thought it, in the preference which is given to sea-borne traffic. I know it is exceedingly difficult to bring it home, because of the way in which the accounts are kept. I have always been convinced, and my stay at the Board of Trade convinced me more than ever, that there is a real genuine grievance in that respect, but that has nothing to do with this particular Bill. Those are things which should be gone into. Wages in many respects are very much too low, and the hours of labour are also perhaps much too long, but there again that has nothing to do with this particular Bill. This Bill, as we have already been reminded, is a Bill to redeem a definite pledge given by the Government of this country in a very grave crisis. It was a crisis which was grave not merely from the point of view of trade, commerce, and industry of the country, but there was a very grave international situation, and in endeavouring to settle we had to make an appeal, not merely on the first ground but on the latter ground as well, to the patriotism of all parties to make a real effort, even if it involved real sacrifices, to put an end to what threatened to be a very dangerous internecine conflict in this country. The railway companies then undertook to accept certain conditions and terms with which the leaders of the men at the time subscribed, and that condition was submitted to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Buxton) and myself and to the Prime Minister. They assented to it, and there was an end of that trouble—the very serious trouble.
We feel in honour bound, not merely personally, but as a Government, to use whatever influence we possess with the House, to see that that pledge is redeemed not merely in the letter, but in the spirit. I do not say that the mere fact that a Government has undertaken a bargain, if it is an improvident bargain, would justify the House of Commons in sanctioning it. I should like to put one or two considerations before the House in order to show that it was not an improvident bargain. What does it mean? There 1639 was very serious doubt not merely in the minds of the traders, but in the minds of the advisers of the Board of Trade and of the Board of Trade as to whether you could take into account an increased charge attributable to improved conditions of labour in your charges. My hon. Friend very well stated the proposition by pointing out that any other employer of labour could take all those charges into account. If there is a great settlement between colliery owners and their employés, or great cotton spinners, or in any other industry which involves a heavy increase in the labour bill, they pass it on, and they are entitled to pass it on. It would be absolutely impossible to conduct any business except on that principle. There was very great doubt as to whether the railway companies could do what every other trader or business man in the country is competent to do. Somebody suggested, I think it was one of the hon. Members for Glasgow, the case of the cost of food and a minimum wage, but then there is absolutely free and unlimited competition, and there is no Act of Parliament or statutory body to prevent you putting on the charges. If you said that a railway company could put on any charges that competition allowed, you would not require an Act of Parliament to enable them to do this. But when you have an Act of Parliament which, according to the interpretation put upon it by the Board of Trade and the Railway and Canal Commission, prevents their taking into account in adjusting their rates, increased charges for labour, I think it is unfair not to allow that element to be introduced.
§ Sir A. MOND
My right hon. Friend did not hear my speech. I quoted no less than five cases before the Railway and Canal Commission in which increased wages had been taken into account as an element, justifying an increase of rate. Therefore, I think that to put it as a general proposition that that element cannot be taken into account is not correct; there must be some other point, which we should like to hear.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend says there are five cases in which wages have been taken into account If he has any experience of such litigation he must know that there are cases on the other side.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend must not contradict me when I have information from the Board of Trade that there are cases of the kind. At any rate, unless there was a doubt about it, why on earth should I, or the Board of Trade, or the Government, or the railway companies desire to introduce this power? If the power already exists, what possible hardship will it be to the trader to have an Act of Parliament which simply declares what my hon. Friend says is already the law of the land? There is no intention to introduce any new element. If my hon. Friend says that the element is already established by law, we only want it to be clearly set out by Statute. If he thinks there is any element introduced beyond that, we are perfectly willing to consider on the Committee stage any point of that kind that he can raise.
Let me put the case from the point of view of labour. I have put it, first of all, from the point of view of the trader or business man, and I have said that we are simply giving the railway companies a right which is now extended to every business man in the country. I should have thought that, from the point of view of labour, it was exceedingly desirable that this should be done. Let me point out to my Labour friends what it means. If the view of the railway companies, as fortified by the Board of Trade, is correct, namely, that they have no power to take into account increased charges for improved conditions of labour, what does it mean? It is a barrier in the way of the fair consideration of every demand which labour puts forward. When a demand is put forward now in any other business, the trader says, "Can I pass it on to the consumer?" If he can, it undoubtedly eases the matter for him, and makes it much less difficult to concede the demand.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I know the point of my hon. Friend. Perhaps he will allow me to continue. When my hon. Friend and his colleagues put forward a demand upon the railway directors for increased wages, if those directors have to say, "Well, this will come out of dividends, and reduce the earnings of the company, but we cannot take that into account in the slightest degree in any adjustment of charges," that is certainly an element of opposition and hostility in the minds of the directors against in- 1641 creasing the wages of the workmen. I should have thought that the workman was the very last person in the world who would have wished that consideration to weigh against him when his case was presented. From that point of view I should have thought it would be well that the railway company has a free hand—well, not a free hand, but has the means of escape from an impossible position. I can well understand a demand, and a justifiable demand, being put forward by labour. There has been an improvement during the last fifty years, and I hope that that improvement will continue. There has been an improvement all over the world. Supposing, then, you get a demand put forward for a substantial increase in wages, or a reduction in the hours of labour, which would involve a considerable increase in the burden upon the railway company. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would not."] Perhaps the hon. Member would for a moment conceive the possibility of such a thing. If there was such a demand put forward it would increase the burden upon the railway company and would put the railway company in a very serious position. I can understand the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes), who takes the view that shareholders ought not to get dividends. From that point of view the opposition is defensible, but from no other point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If you assume that that is a fair premise, then I say the objection to this Bill is perfectly defensible, but from no other point of view is it defensible. I do not think that that is a position which will be taken up by a majority of Members on either side of the House.
I come to another point. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) has suggested a doubt as to whether this Bill does not go beyond its obvious intention. My right hon. Friend is certainly willing to consider that, but that is a matter for Committee. If my hon. Friend in Committee moves an Amendment which makes it perfectly clear that the Bill will not be utilised for any purpose that goes beyond its obvious, and fair intention, my right hon. Friend and I will certainly give it the most favourable consideration. Other questions have been put in the course of this Debate which are not strictly relevant to the Bill proposed. But, as has already been pointed out, a Debate on a Railway Bill usually wanders beyond 1642 the limits of the particular issue that is involved in the Bill itself. There has been the expression of a feeling from both sides of the House that the traders are suffering from grievances which ought to be removed; and that agriculturists are suffering from grievances. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do sympathise with that view. I have already expressed it. I think there certainly ought to be some fuller investigation of the position of the railway companies in regard to sea-borne goods. It is one of the necessities of the situation; for the simple reason now that the traffic comes across the sea the trader has the choice of perhaps half a dozen lines. It makes so little difference in the matter of freight whether you deposit your goods at this port, or a port fifty miles away, or even 100 miles away. It increases the charges so very little. The traders are in the position of having half a dozen railway companies in keen competition with each other, and it is worth the while of the railway company to cast the terminal and permanent charges upon the home trader in order to secure the carriage of the sea-borne goods. I am perfectly certain there is very great cause for that inquiry. My hon. Friend the Member for York also made out a very strong ease in respect of certain grievances in which the trader undoubtedly suffers.
There is cause for investigation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) that the worst method of investigating a case of this kind is a Royal Commission. It is the least expeditious and the least effective. What happens is, you have representatives of railway companies and representatives of the traders, and other interests that are fighting each other, and you cannot get a well-considered impartial recommendation, and the result is you get three or four different reports written from different points of view, not one of them in the least helpful to the Government Department that wants to find a real solution of the problem. And it takes no end of time. When I was at the Board of Trade my hon. Friend was a member of a Committee appointed to inquire into the matter. It was a Committee on which railway managers were present, and I am sure it did excellent work. I am sure it would be possible to have some inquiry of that kind again. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is considering the matter, and he is hopeful of being able to make an announcement at 1643 no distant date. I am sure something should be done. No one is satisfied with the situation now. Agriculture is complaining, and it has good ground for complaint. The small trader cannot protect himself. His grievance is that he cannot go before an expensive tribunal like the Railway and Canal Commissioners, where you have to employ special counsel, very often with high fees, and experts, who are also very expensive. To invite a small trader to fight an action before the Railway and Canal Commissioners is very often to invite bankruptcy for him. And satisfactory results do not always follow. You have to fight the railway companies, who have at their command men trained all their lives and who have full command of the accounts, and it is an almost impossible proposition to invite a small trader to go before that Commission to investigate his grievance. There ought to be a better, more expeditious, and cheaper tribunal to investigate the grievances of small traders. A powerful combination of traders can protect itself and fight with great success.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend (Sir A. Mond) is well able to hold his own, I am sure. Then there were cases presented by the hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) of expensive competition in some places, railway companies running unnecessary trains, having unnecessary stations, and double staffs. In some places there is competition, while other places, where there is a monopoly, are starved. All these things require to be looked into, and looked into thoroughly, and I am firmly of the mind that there is more to be done by way of reconsideration of our railway system, not merely for the protection of the shareholders, but at the same time for promoting the trade and industry of the country. That has been the subject of discussion for the last few years. I have always been of that view, and I think it is well worth while considering. All these considerations are not strictly relevant to the very narrow limited issue in this Bill. Still the House insists, and I think rightly insists, on taking advantage of any Railway Bill that comes forward to present its grievances and the grievances of the traders of this country. I think we have had a most useful discussion from that 1644 point of view, and I hope my hon. Friend will see his way, on the promises I have given to look into these matters, and to give fair consideration to every Amendment, which makes it clear that this Bill will not travel beyond its purpose, to withdraw this Amendment, and allow us to move that the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ Sir A. MOND
In answer to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman I feel that, in view of the promise he has given on his own behalf and on behalf of the President of the Board of Trade, that they will favourably consider Amendments in Committee which will limit the Bill to what they intended it to mean, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Leave to withdraw Amendment withheld.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I think it is only common justice to the railway companies that the House should give a Second Reading to this Bill. The House should remember that the amount of interest paid on railway investments does not average more than 3½ per cent. Traders want increased facilities and railway companies are unable to find the money at the present time. Owing to the high price of money in the market railway companies will not find money to develop new districts and provide fresh accommodation unless they can be assured of a fair return for their money. As a trader I am constantly asking railway companies to give increased facilities and provide sidings accommodation and the reply always is, "We have no money to make these alterations, and unless we get increased rates no company ever can face the cost of developing new districts." It is all very well for the hon. Baronet who moved this Amendment to argue in the way he did when his firm pays 30 per cent, on the whole of its capital, and really a dividend of 60 per cent. It is not reasonable to argue that these facilities should not be given because the shareholders are receiving too much. Shareholders, like other people, are entitled to a fair return for their money. An hon. Member said it was subsidising incompetence to allow railway companies to make these new charges, but the hon. Member is under an entire delusion on this point. It has also been said that the salaries of directors amount to such a large 1645 sum that it is a burden on the industries of the country. I do not hold any shares in railway companies because I should not be content with 3½2 per cent. interest on my money. When I hear people say that the directors are mismanaging the business of the railway companies, I reply that the directors have nothing to do with the management of railways. I am constantly dealing with railway companies, and I never see the directors. When traders are unable to agree with the general manager and he says he must report the matter to his directors, you may take it that, as a matter of fact, they are not going to get what they ask. The railways are exceedingly well run by the general managers. Why do the representatives of labour oppose this Bill? It is distinctly drafted on the understanding that no increased rate shall be granted unless it is proved that increase in the rate is paid in increased wages. Some say it may go to the directors and to the superior officials. Railway companies pay low salaries even to their superior officials. Surely when permanent rates which the companies cannot raise are fixed by Act of Parliament and the whole cost of living has risen all through the country, the price of all commodities being higher, it is not unreasonable for the companies to ask the House to put them in a position to give their men a living wage! There are men on the South Eastern Railway working twelve hours a day for 16s. per week. I do not say the South Eastern reflects very much credit on the management in the past; but even in that case the position is entirely owing to the enormous price they had to pay for the land. I represent an industrial district where large numbers of men are engaged in the moving of the coal which has been obtained from the mines. The people connected with the collieries receive a minimum rate of wages, and men on the railways engaged on similar work receive lower wages for longer hours. The men want higher wages, but the companies say they are not in a position to pay them. If only the cost of increases granted by the railway companies is placed on the public, the public will not have very much to grumble about. I would say this with regard to the question of settling what the rates will have to be. The total amount of the mineral and goods traffic is 500,000,000 tons. Of that 400,000,000 tons are minerals and 100,000,000 tons are goods. This is the most paying 1646 part of the whole business of the railway companies, and my complaint against railways companies is that they will never separate their accounts. Under this Bill a railway company has to prove that a rate is not unreasonable, but how can either a trader or a railway company prove to the satisfaction of the Railway and Canal Commission that a rate is not unreasonable? I have had cases before the Railway and Canal Commission. I think I had the first case with which the Leader of the Opposition ever had to deal when he was Under-Secretary at the Board of Trade. I brought to his notice a case of secret rebates being given by a railway company, and he caused the company to discontinue them. Unless the railway companies are placed in a position when before the Railway Commission to show the cost, of the traffic they are moving, it will be impossible for the Railway Commissioners to give a judgment which is either reasonable or just. I hope the Government will accept the Resolution I have on the Paper, in which I ask that the railway companies be required to separate their accounts. Will not the President of the Board of Trade secure this separation? The companies say they cannot do it. But any engineering works and any industrial concern will tell you approximately the cost of any article they produce, and why, when you have lines dealing with mineral traffic, should it not be possible to show approximately the cost of it. If the right hon. Gentleman will get that concession on behalf of the traders—because it is the trader who really wants the information—he will remove an important grievance. I think the Labour party are unwise in not accepting this proposal. It has nothing to do with the nationalisation of the railways. Personally I am in favour of that. I am convinced if all the railways were under one system and empty trucks had not to be returned to the source whence they came, the traffic could be worked much more cheaply.
The only question we have to decide is whether the railway companies should have the right to make these increased charges in recompense for the extra wages they are going to pay to their workmen. If the companies do not increase the pay of their workmen, the Board of Trade must take steps to see that they do not get power to increase their rates. We ought to have some guarantee to that effect before the Bill leaves this House. 1647 Take the case of the South-Eastern Railway Company. Their men are still receiving 16s., although the company have increased the charge for season tickets. The Government ought to take steps to see that these low-paid men shall receive such an increase as will enable them to keep their wives and families in decent comfort.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I am interested in railway undertakings, and I can assure the last speaker that I do not have to put up with 3½ per cent. interest. I am confident it is quite easy to ensure a return of at least 5 per cent. Hon. Members know perfectly well that we have to calculate the yield and not the mere return on £100. The prices of railway stocks in this country are better now than they have been at any time during the last ten years, and anyone who invests in railway stocks at the present time makes a very good purchase. I only say that because I do not want the House to assume that I have any bias whatever against railway companies. My interests are with the railway companies. In spite of that, I do think that the Government have in this Bill gone beyond the pledge that they gave to the railway companies in August, 1911, and that that pledge, even if they had not gone beyond it at all, is not binding upon all the Members of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister, in giving that pledge, stated quite clearly that he pledged himself and his Government, but that he could not pledge the ordinary private Member. Of course the railway companies to whom the pledge was given knew perfectly well that it was impossible to bind any private Member of Parliament, however much you may talk about the strength of the party machine and allegiance to the party Whips. Although I say that this Bill is based on a pledge given by the Prime Minister, it does, in four distinct points, go far beyond that pledge. In the first place, anyone who will read paragraph (a) will see that it is not merely on an increase in the rates of the low-paid staff that the railway companies are to base a claim for a rise in rates. The conditions of employment of their staff include the salaries paid to managers or to any people employed in the higher salaried posts. That, however, is a Committee point. There you are going absolutely beyond the pledge of the Prime Minister.
In the next place, the House will observe that we are not dealing simply with the 1648 rises of wages given by the railway companies at the conclusion of the strike. This Bill holds for all time, and for all subsequent rises of wages the railway companies are insured against having to suffer any loss. That puts them in a very peculiar position, a position in which many other similarly constituted industries would like to be. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomas Taylor) stated, in the case of the ordinary industry subject to free competition the manufacturer puts the price of the increased wage upon his article, and the consumer pays. But there are many other industries besides the railway industry which are monopolies, and these are unable to increase the price of the article to the consumer. Every argument uttered in favour of this Bill so far as railway companies are concerned can be applied with equal validity to gas companies, tramway companies, electric light companies, in fact to all public franchises based upon monopolies. AH those industries are unable to increase the price to the consumer, consequently they will have, equally with railway companies, a perfectly valid ground, according to the arguments put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Mark-ham), for coming to Parliament and demanding that whoever suffers the vested interest, the monopoly shall not suffer, and that the charge for increased wages shall be transferable to the whole community, which means, in the long run, the wage-earners of the country.
That seems to be going beyond the book and beyond the pledge. You are not merely saying that the rises of wages, by which the railway companies met the striking railway workers a year and a-half ago are to be transferred on to the back of the public. You are saying to railway companies and implicitly to all monopoly owners in the country, "We give you in future the right to charge any increased cost of wages upon the consumer"—that is, upon the wage-earners themselves. The hon. Member (Mr. Barnes) referred to the agricultural question, and asked very pertinently whether, when we have a minimum wage for agricultural labourers, the Government will come forward and say to all the farmers and small holders. "We give you a statutory right to sell your potatoes and turnips and what not at a 10 per cent, increased price because of 1649 this minimum wage of the agricultural labourer." I do not think we need trouble in that case to give the farmers that right, because, after all, it would come out of the rent. The fanner would no longer be able to pay his present rent. Rents would fall and prices would not rise. But exactly the same principle applies to the railway companies, as was illustrated by the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes), because if you do not give to the railways this privilege of transferring the charge on to the community their dividends will fall, which means that the returns for the franchise conferred upon the railway companies by Parliament will be less by the amount, that they are compelled to reduce their dividends. In these two points, first of all, by including the higher-salaried posts as well as the low wages in the Bill; and, secondly, by including any increase of wages for all time, I think the Government are going beyond their pledge.
There is a third point I wish to mention—a point originally raised by the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Mond). He pointed out that the promise of the Government was to make it quite clear to the railway companies that the increase in wages might be taken as a ground for demanding an increase in the particular rate, that hitherto you had got to show that an increase in the wages on a particular branch line should justly be made a ground for a higher rate upon that particular line, and that the increased rate of wages for people working goods trains should be a valid ground for demanding an increase in goods rates. The charge outlined by the Bill goes far further than that. It does not merely say that if there is any particular increase in the wages in a particular district or a particular trade, an increased rate should be able to be demanded by the railway companies of traders. It says that an increased rate of wages anywhere shall be a sufficient ground for demanding an increased rate for the whole railway system, so that if you give the waiters in some of your hotels increased wages, that would be a good ground under this Bill for demanding an increase for the trade in minerals, and if you pay your dockers in Hull or railway workers in Crewe a living wage, that will be a sufficient ground for demanding an increase of freight for the agricultural produce of the country. The important promise of the Government was that they would give the railway companies power to put in a legal form what they already claimed before 1650 these Railway Commissioners. In this Bill they have something that goes far further than that which gives them a right to demand a general increase of rates on account of any incidental increase of pay.
Then there is another point in which they have gone beyond their pledge. The traders of this country were perfectly justified in imagining that when the Government did, after all these years, take up this question of general railway rate legislation, at least they could put right some of those grievances which have been admitted by Government after Government and Commission after Commission which has considered those grievances, the question of owners' risk rate, the question of terminal charges, and the question of demurrage. I think we might have expected that when the Government carried out their pledges to the railway companies made in August, 1911, they should at the same time and in the same Bill have carried out some of their pledges to the traders of the country, and so put right some of those manifest injustices which railway companies are at present able to practise at the expense and at the risk of traders. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the preferential rates granted on the transit of sea-borne goods to the centre of the country. That is a grievance of agriculturists. I think if you will go to any chamber of commerce, you will find that their grievances are every bit as bitter and as well founded as the grievances of agriculturists. I do hope that this Committee, or whatever form of inquiry it is proposed to set up, will go into the grievances of the traders as well as those of the agriculturists, and will see whether it is not possible to do a little bit more justice to the traders of this country. The hon. and gallant Member for the Epping Division (Colonel Lockwood) made a point—it was also made by the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomas Taylor)—which I know appealed to the House very strongly. They say that if the ordinary trader is able to charge consumers more when they pay increased wages for labour, railway companies should also be allowed to do so. That is not so. Is it just, they ask, that railway companies should not be in a position to get the advantages ordinary traders can get? Let us be quite clear on this point. Any man who invests in a railway company does it on conditions which he knows perfectly well. He knows that the Government control, and rigidly 1651 control, the freight rates to be charged by that railway company. He knows that in investing in that company he must take into account all the conditions as to the termination of lease, or the regulations made under the Act of Parliament which created the railway. He goes into that with his eyes open, but in this Bill you are giving people who have invested their money in this business with eyes open and knowing the risks they run, an enormous advantage. You are giving them a privileged position not enjoyed by them now, and I say it is the business of this Parliament not to increase but to decrease privileges.
§ Mr. BUXTON
We have already promised that any Amendments with reference to particular proposals in the Bill will be carefully considered. I hope, therefore, the House will now come to a decision.
§ Mr. MORTON
We have been told from several sources that every question in connection with railways has been mentioned. One has been left out and that is the provision of "sleepers" for third class passengers.
§ Mr. MORTON
I do not want to discuss it to-night. I am opposed to the Bill be cause, in my opinion, it is unfair to agriculturists and small traders. That affects my constituency, and I am bound to take some interest in the matter. We are told that by the Act of 1894 the railway companies have already got power to increase rates to the maximum with the consent of the Railway Commissioners. I am told that if the Bill is passed you will put it the other way, and that they will be able to increase rates unless some one is strong enough to go to the Railway Commissioners to get them reduced. That is altogether wrong. In my opinion it does a great injustice, especially to the small traders. We are told that the Government gave some pledge in this matter. I do not think that the Government should give any such pledge without consulting at least their own party. I have not much sympathy with the people who got up the war scare in August, 1911—
§ Mr. BUXTON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 237; Noes, 55.1653
|Division No. 565.]||AYES.||[11.12 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Cotton, William Francis||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Crooks, William||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Crumley, Patrick||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cullinan, J.||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Davies, E. William (Eifion)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Armitage, Robert||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hackett, J.|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Dawes, James Arthu||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Delany, William||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hacourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Devlin, Joseph||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Barton, W.||Dillon, John||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Doris, W.||Harris, Henry Percy|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Duffy, William J.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon Augustine||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Boland, John Plus||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Hayward, Evan|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Hazleton, Richard|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Elverston, Sir Harold||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Boyle, D. (Mayo, North)||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Brace, William||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Brady, P. J.||Falconer, J.||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Farrell, James Patrick||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Ffrench, Peter||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Field, William||Hudson, Walter|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Flennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Hughes, S. L.|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Fitzgibbon, John||Inbleby, Holcombe|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||France, G. A.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Furness, Stephen||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Gill, A. H.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Clough, William||Ginnell, L.||Jones, Willaim (Carnarvonshire)|
|Clynes, John R.||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Glanville, Harold James||Joyce, Michael|
|Cornwall Sir Edwin A.||Goldstone, Frank||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Nuttall, Harry||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Kerry, Earl of||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Rutherford, John (Lanes., Darwen)|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Connor, John (Klldare, N.)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|King, J.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Oowd, John||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||O'Grady, James||Sheehy, David|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Shortt, Edward|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||O'Malley, William||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Lewis, John Herbert||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||O'Shee, James John||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Sutherland, J. E,|
|Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Sutton, John E.|
|Lundon, Thomas||Parry, Thomas H.||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Lynch, A. A.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|McGhee, Richard||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A, (Rotherham)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Pointer, Joseph||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pollard, Sir George H.||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Manfield, Harry||Pringle, William M. R.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Radford, G. H.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Reddy, M.||Webb, H.|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Meagher, Michael||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Millar, James Duncan||Richards, Thomas||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Molloy, M.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)l||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Morgan, George Hay||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Muldoon, John||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Munro, R.||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Murray, Captain Hon, A. C.||Robinson, Sidney||Wotd, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Nicholson, Sir C. N. (Doncaster)||Roche, Augustine (Louth. N.)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Roe, Sir Thomas||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Rowlands, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Baicarres, Lord||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury, S.Edmunds)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Barnston, Harry||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hickman, Col. T. E.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Bird, A.||Higham, John Sharp||Primrose, Hon. Nell James|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Boyton, James||Hunt, Rowland||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Knight, Captain E. A.||Stanler, Beville|
|Cave, George||Larmor, Sir J.||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Macpherson, James Ian||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Money, L. G. Chlozza||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Morrell, Philip||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Younger, Sir George|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Grant, J. A.||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Morton and Mr. Martin.|
|Gretton, John||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W, G. A.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the I The House word 'now' stand part of the Question."1654
§ The House divided: Ayes, 229; Noes, 52.1657
|Division No. 566.]||AYES.||[11.21 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Balcarres, Lord||Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Boyton, James|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Brady, P. J.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Barton, William||Brocklehurst, William B.|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Beale, Sir William Phipson||Burdett-Coutts, W.|
|Armitage, R.||Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Arnold, Sydney||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)|
|Baird, J. L.||Boland, John Plus||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Booth, Frederick Handel||Cave, George|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Asten Manor)||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Jessel, Captain Herbert M.||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Clough, William||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Cotton, William Francis||Joyce, Michael||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Crumley, Patrick||Kellaway, Frederick George||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Cullinan, John||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Kerry, Earl of||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Kilbride, Denis||Radford, G. H.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||King, J.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Dawes, J. A.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Delany, William||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Denman, Hon. R, D.||Larmor, Sir J.||Reddy, M.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Dillon, John||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Doris, William||Levy, Sir Maurice||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Duffy, William J.||Lewis, John Herbert||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Falconer, J.||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lundon, T.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Ffrench, Peter||Lynch, A. A||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Field, William||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rowlands, James|
|Fitzgibbon, John||McGhee, Richard||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Maclean, Donald||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|France, G. A.||Macpherson, James Ian||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Furness, Stephen||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sheehy, David|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Gibbs, G. A.||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Shortt, Edward|
|Ginnell, L.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Manfield, Harry||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, W.)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Meagher, Michael||Touche, George Alexander|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Millar, James Duncan||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hackett, J.||Molloy, Michael||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Morgan, George Hay||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Muldoen, John||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Munro, Robert||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Harris, Henry Percy||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Webb, H.|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nolan, Joseph||White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Norman, Sir Henry||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Norton, Captain C. W.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Hayward, Evan||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Whyte, A. F.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Nuttall, Harry||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, E.)|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Dowd, John||Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)|
|Hobhouse. Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Malley, William|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Hughes. S. L.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||O'Shee, James John|
|Alden, Percy||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Martin, Joseph|
|Barnes, George N.||Elverston, Sir Harold||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Barnston, Harry||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Gill, A. H.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Goldsmith, Frank||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Bird, A.||Goldstone, Prank||O Grady, James|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Grant, J. A.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Brace, William||Gretton, John||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Hunt, Rowland||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Clynes, John R.||Ingleby, Holcombe||Richards, Thomas|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Jowett, Frederick William||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool., W. Derby)|
|Sanders, Robert Arthur||Watt, Henry A.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Sutton, John E.||Whitehouse, John Howard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Peto and Mr. Pointer.|
|Thorne, William (West Ham)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next, 3rd February.