§ (By Order.)
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This Bill is to be followed by a somewhat similar Bill promoted by the same company, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (New Capital) Bill. It might be for the convenience of the House, seeing that the two Bills are promoted by the same company, and cover substantially the same ground, that the general discussion should be taken on the first one.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On that point, Mr. Speaker, will it be possible to raise on the second Bill points that are not dealt with on the first Bill?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
As I have said, we can take a general discussion on the first Bill which will cover both. Smaller points on the second Bill can be raised later.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On that point, Sir, as, generally speaking, in this House there is some Member who replies on behalf of the company, is it possible that certain points, nominally coming under the first Bill, when raised on the second Bill, will be dealt with by the hon. Member who replies on behalf of the company taking advantage of the fact, saying that the points had been disposed of in the first Bill, and declining to deal with them?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
In that case, I shall certainly allow what appear to be reasonable questions to be asked.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Colonel VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now ", and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
I desire to explain to the House something of the circumstances under which I came to table the Resolution which stands in my name. The railway company have facilitated my task, because they have circulated a paper to Members of the House, in which they have explained both the purpose of the Bill, and have suggested, partly correctly, the motive which I have in having tabled 2910 the Amendment. My object is to take advantage of my Parliamentary privilege and endeavour to draw attention to a subject which concerns rather closely the Division which I have the honour to represent.
I feel that on an occasion of this sort that I am not in any way departing from Parliamentary practice in raising a general question affecting railway companies. I do not pretend, in the first place, that this is mostly connected with the Bill before the House, nor do I propose in dealing with the matter which I have in mind to challenge to any wide extent the general conduct by the railway company of its affairs. In fact, I may say at once that I have no objection whatever to the objects the railway company has in view in either of the two Bills. The circumstances which I propose to detail to the House are well known to the railway company, as I have made no secret of the cause which I intend to plead, nor, may I say, have the railway company made any secret of their case which I shall endeavour to meet. I feel that I have a case to make and a case to answer.
In the first place, I desire to call the attention of the House to the property of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in West Kensington, a part of Western London which is included in my constituency. The railway company own this land which they acquired at the time of amalgamation, it having previously been the property of the Midland Railway Company. It consists of a large area of land, about 18 acres in extent, bounded on the East by the Midland Railway Line, and on the West by the North End Road, congested at times and a rather shabby thoroughfare. The land is at present devoted to two purposes. The larger part of it is used for an important coal depot, coal sidings, and goods yard. There is the Northern part, consisting of about a third of the total, which will be familiar to many Members of the House when I describe it as part of the sometime Earl's Court Exhibition ground. This piece of land has been the property of the railway company for about half a century, and is apparently to be used, subsequently, for the purposes of the railway. During the period of the War a portion of this land was occupied under the ægis of the Government, first for the accommodation of Belgian refugees, and later for some pur- 2911 pose connected with Government stores. Since the Government vacated it, it has been, so far as my knowledge goes, put to no useful purpose either connected with the railway service or any other. There are many residents in that part of London, in my Division, who consider that a case could be made put for devoting that piece of land to some useful purpose, say, an open space.
I do not challenge the title of the company to the land. There is a divergence of opinion on that point, but, frankly, I do not share the views of certain of my friends in that respect. I challenge in no sense the company's right or title to the possession of the land, but, as I said, I am going to plead with them as to whether they cannot assist the community by devoting it to some rather better service than it serves at present. In a borough like the one to which I refer you may have a substantial amount of open space, as compared with other boroughs in London, yet your open space may be so situated that it does not altogether fulfil the urgent needs of the inhabitants; and the case I desire to put to the House is the enormous advantage and benefit to the people of one of our busy and congested areas it would be if this place, or even a portion of it, could be devoted to the purpose I have indicated. In the "Times" of this morning there is an apposite allusion, in a leading article, to this very question of open spaces, and I will read one or two sentences from it. One is reminded that the distance of playgrounds and open spaces from many homes puts them beyond the use of large numbers of people, which emphasises the point I have endeavoured to make, that open spaces at a distance, large and capacious though they may be, do not serve the purposes of the community as do smaller and more easily-accessible areas. At the end of the article the writer points out a further aspect of the matter. It is gratifying to read what he says, because it contains a promise or an optimistic outlook which we should all be glad to share. He says:But, in spite of all difficulties, a great epoch of building and rebuilding is visibly upon us, and it is urgent for us not to yield to the assumption that there will always be somewhere to rest or to play so long as provision is made for sleeping and working.2912 In the district to which I am referring there is very inadequate provision, not so much for working, because my constituents do not work there, but have to go elsewhere to work, but for sleeping. There is a big percentage of overcrowding, and a very insufficient supply of homes.
Having dealt with the northern portion of this area, I will now come to the southern. As I have mentioned, the southern area comprises an important coal depot and goods depot, which has been there for something like half a century. It is not a neighbourhood where one would desire to see a large coal depot. It is not the neighbourhood in which, with our more enlightened views on town planning and zoning, we should nowadays place a coal depot. Without taking an exaggerated view, I think its presence there, apart from its utilitarian value, is really a blot on the local landscape. I have suggested to the right hon. Gentleman who presides over much of the administrative destinies of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway that now that the Midland Railway is one of a great group of other railways, under one head, they ought to consider whether it is not possible, though I know it is a bold suggestion to make, to vacate that particular area and to concentrate their coal and other business in one of the four coal wharves and depots which they possess within a radius of a little over a mile. If something of that sort could be done, the opportunity would present itself for such an improvement and development of that part of London as would go a long way to solving many of our local difficulties. One cannot nowadays conceive of a railway locating a big coal depot where that one is, interfering, as it does, with the natural development of a district which needs to be a residential and a shopping centre. It is a violation of town planning and a blot on our local landscape.
So much for the southern area, and, of course, the southern area affects the northern area very materially, because the railway company purchased the site as a whole, and have always said they could not consider parting with the Earl's Court ground space as they might require it for the development of their coal wharves and goods sidings. That is why I think the suggestion I made to 2913 the railway company, although I admit it was a bold one, would have provided a very happy solution. As the one depends on the other, and as they do not require the one, they would no longer need the other, and we should have a much larger area to deal with. They have got other areas in the neighbourhood which I was at one time inclined to think they might develop in order to dispense with the one I have referred to. This matter has been the subject of considerable correspondence between myself and the very courteous officials of the railway company. They have treated such representations as I have made with patient and courteous consideration, but to all those representations they have returned a polite but very firm negative.
Not having succeeded in influencing the railway company in the direction of a modification of their coal siding plans one turns one's attention again to the Earl's Court ground, the northern part of the area. Here I must remind the House that although the railway company regard it as essential to their business, they have during the whole time they have been in possession of it never used it for any strictly railway purpose, so far as local knowledge goes. They do not at the present moment occupy it themselves. It is under lease to another railway company, which does not use it for railway purposes either; and at the moment at which I am addressing this House I believe that it is still derelict and unused. Its outer boundaries are still as unsightly as they have been for years, its tawdry decorations still remind one dimly of its more jovial past, and it remains altogether a rather miserable example of utilitarianism instead of what it might easily become if one could only persuade the railway company to take one's own point of view as to its development.
If the railway company cannot spare the coal wharves, cannot spare the whole of the Earl's Court grounds, one would suppose they might have been persuaded to deal with some of their frontage land. The frontage land along their coal wharves is used at present for a rather minor purpose. The road is narrow and the buildings along the frontage are only one-storey coal offices, or depots for the sale of coal, and I think they might 2914 spare some of that for another purpose. So far as the Earl's Court grounds are concerned, I must admit they have so far yielded to pressure as to consent to sell a very small portion of that area, which I do not think possesses any very great value. Still one must admit, as one is not starting out to propose anything in the nature of an unfair bargain, that the railway company have a right to put a fair value on their property. The very small pieces of land they offered is in the view of the local people not worth anything like the figure which the railway companies have placed upon them. Having so far failed to obtain facilities in the Northern area for an open space and parts of the Southern area for future development. I put to the railway company the purpose I had in view, that is that we wanted some means of relieving our overcrowding in that area, and I asked whether they could see their way to consider a building scheme on their own frontage in the North End Road.
That suggestion was received with a certain amount of favour, and I was invited to prepare a plan. At that stage it was not worth spending much time and trouble and expense preparing something which might easily have been turned down, as in fact it has been. That is a rough outline of the course of negotiations. I have pleaded with the railway company to see whether they can spare us, first of all, part, if not the whole, of the land in those areas, and with their characteristic method of firmness I have received from the railway companies that negative to which I have already alluded. I think there is a prima facie case, considering that under the amalgamation the railway company have all these different coal sidings and depots, and surely they can do something to amalgamate some of them. If they cannot do that, will they consider helping us in some other way?
The railway company say they cannot spare their coal wharf because it is one of the most important they have, and they assert that the demands on it are increasing all the time. Frankly, one must accept the railway company's view of their own business. I am not in a position to tell the railway company what they can or cannot do with their own property. I can only plead with 2915 them, as a great corporation, for a consideration of the local circumstances, and I ask them if they cannot do something to help us in these small matters. I ask them whether they will not allow us to have some of this land at a price, or else do something practical themselves in the direction of what we are anxious to do for the community.
If we can only persuade them to meet us in some reasonable fashion we should be able to widen our roads and do away with the derelict end or boundary in that part of London. If they would only do this then the people would bless the foresight and the wisdom of the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway. Up to the present my pleadings have been unavailing except in regard to a small promise to consider them. I am sure they will consider them, but I regret that up to the present they have not seen their way to meet me in a more generous or hopeful manner. I can only express my regret, and having voiced my protest I do not propose to interfere with the course of the company's business to the extent of dividing the House on this Motion. The purposes which the railway company have in view in this Bill are necessary for the reasons they have stated, and therefore I do cot propose to do more than ask my hon. Friend behind me to second this Motion. I trust that this great railway company will be able to give me something more than they have promised up to the present.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I beg to second the Amendment.
As one who has always been very keen about sports of any description, when a question of open spaces comes up I cannot help saying a few words. I recollect that 25 years ago, before I went to the Far East, I played a great deal of cricket and football all round London, and, on coming back to London, I found that a great number of those places where I had played football and cricket in the old days were now built over. The railway companies seemingly cannot make use of this land, which they probably bought as a good speculation, and as business men I do not blame them for it. If they cannot use that ground at present, I think they might be persuaded in any case to let part 2916 of it to be used as sports grounds of one sort or another. I have great pleasure in seconding this Amendment, and though, as the Mover has already said, he does not wish to press this Motion to a Division, I hope those who speak for the railway company will bear in mind that we have only decided not to press this Motion to a Division because we are afraid they might lose the Bill.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Reference has just been made to Earl's Court, but that does not concern what I am going to say, because I am going to make a special reference to Scotland. We have got a station called Buchanan Street Station in Glasgow, and it is not looked after so well as the place of which the last speaker has complained. Here we are in Glasgow with this prehistoric station. When you go to this old wooden stable you get tickets that take you up to a place called Gleneagles, where there is a huge beautiful station upon which a large amount of capital has been spent; and they are trying to distribute the relative proportion of the capital spent on Gleneagles Station down through the railways of the new amalgamation, and to spread away the million and a half that has been spent upon it. In Glasgow we have a population of a million, and we have a horse's stable as the only station for the North; but when we come to Gleneagles, a million and a half has been spent upon it. Had it been millworkers, or riveters, or shipbuilders, who went up to Gleneagles, there would have been no station, but only a wooden shed with a plank for the men to step out on. But who is it that goes from the City of Glasgow to Gleneagles to play golf? It is not the men who build the stations or run the railways, but only members of the Federation of British Industries, of the type you have in this House. They do not get down to their offices till 10 or 11 in the morning, and they leave at one or two and go to Gleneagles to play golf. That is supposed to be the idea of the railway companies, that for this handful of people who have time to play golf, and are able to afford to play golf by robbing the other chap, this station is to be built at an expenditure of a million and a half, while the working classes in Glasgow have to put up with this stable in Buchanan Street.
Then as regards the conveyances that this railway provides for the workers who 2917 go down the Clyde to build the great ships that make the British nation great, what do you find? You find an underground railway that is like a sewer, with no relation to modern engineering science. There is neither ventilation nor anything else, and the carriages in which workmen have to travel in the morning are not so good as horse-boxes. The horses get a padded place to take off the jolts, someone suggests "the donkeys, the two-legged ones that go down there," what do they get? There is no gas lighting; you have a carriage with wooden seats, and, on a dark morning, if the men want to get a glimpse of the paper to see what horse came in yesterday, they have to carry their own candles and find their own light to see it. And here you have the company coming along asking for powers to get new capital. Not with my vote. I want to see some efficiency in the use of the capital that this House has allowed them to get before I give my vote for giving them any more.
The suggestion was made years ago that this part of the railway, at least, that goes down the side of the Clyde, ought to be electrified, and could have been electrified, but what happened? What did the great capitalist brain-box of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway do? They got up the guy that they were up against competition, and started making a lot of useless embankments, upon some of which no rails have ever been laid, and they spent on that 7½ millions; and now, because they have stupidly wasted that capital, on every ticket we buy to travel we have to pay the interest and sinking fund on that 7½ millions that has been wasted through their incapacity. Why should any corporate body be allowed to come and ask for more capital, with all that evidence standing on its record to-day showing that they were incapable of using the capital they got?. The cost of these railway embankments round about Glasgow, which have been built owing to the supposed competition, has got to come out of the travelling public, because the shareholder has still his grip on this dead investment in the shape of railway embankments that are not being used. They are making us pay through the nose for all their mistakes in fear of competition, which is supposed to be good for everyone.
2918 Now we have the railway companies saying that they want this Bill because they are going to be subject to serious competition from omnibuses and roads and all that kind of thing, and things are looking bad. Whose fault is that? Take the case of the omnibus competition in Glasgow. There is no one with any sense who would go underground where they could travel above ground, and yet we have this line to which I have referred, and, apart altogether from their prehistoric methods in regard to transport arrangements, you never get the trains running at times to suit the people. You would think, so far as the Clyde was concerned, that the railway companies decided at what hours the workmen should travel and at what hours they should return, that they were the determining factor in the whole of the moving life of the city; and for them to come along now and ask quietly to have more power to continue their stupidity is something that I, at least, am definitely up against.
Now I come to a personal matter, because when one is dealing with workmen it becomes very personal. I want to make the complaint in this House that the railway company, so far as its old workmen are concerned, have not dealt fairly with those old men who have been so long in the service. If a corporate body is going to deal fairly with working men at the same age and having the same service, they ought to treat them all alike, but here we have this company drawing distinctions as to where it is going to give what it calls this reward. They make investigations as to the financial standing of this, that, and the other body, and then they begin to draw lines, and the man who, by accident or otherwise, may have a better suit of clothes, or 30s. more in the bank, is considered not to have rendered the same service as the other fellow. That is a most unfair way for a private company to deal with its workmen, and I want to enter my protest against it from these benches, and to say that it exactly typifies the outlook of this impersonal company, where you never get the personal touch between those who command and those who work.
So far as the capital is concerned, I should say that if this House were wise, in the interests of advancing railway 2919 accommodation and advancing the whole of our needs in travel, we would say to these companies, "You can come back when you bring things up to date." They do things by halves. The Regulation came out that they should provide some drinking water in the long-distance compartments, and when you are in a train you see a little filter-jar, but you never see beside that jar anything whereby you can get some water to drink. In America, even in the third-class cars, there is a nest of paper cups, and the arrangement is sanitary as well, because when you have used one you just crush it up and place it in the receptacle below the filter; but here they seem to try and force you to ring the bell and call the waiter and pay for a drink. When I was interviewed in the Lobby of this House by the representative of the company, because I was opposing this Bill, I pointed that out, and he thought he would report it and that it would be remedied, but, so far as I have seen in my travels since, it has not been remedied.
With regard to the second Bill, and the question of what they are going to do with regard to this enclosure of land—I mean by enclosure of land the right to shut up rights of way—we are going to take every step we can to stop that Railway companies have power, when they get land, to do as they like with it. There are hundreds of places where they allow these things to become eyesores. I hope the Minister of Transport, in the interests of the travelling public, will take up this point and see that something as done, otherwise there is going to be strenuous opposition.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I rise to oppose the Bill, for various reasons which I think are of sufficient gravity to warrant the House in rejecting it. In the first place, what ever difference there may be between Liberal and Tory or between Labour and Tory, I am sure everyone will agree with the first speaker in his desire for open spaces in the City of London. Of all places which are only equalled by my native City of Glasgow, there is no place that needs open spaces like the centre of London. I am sure everyone present who has heard this case will sympathise with the hon. Member in his views, and will do everything possible to get these much desired open spaces for 2920 Kensington. The first thing I want to raise is a matter of very great indictment against the company. The first speaker indicted them because they were not giving open spaces. The last speaker indicted them on various scores, all of which I agree with. I want to indict them on a thing that I think of even greater gravity. One of the most famous characteristics of the city I represent is that the whole population are good footballers and attend football matches regularly. We can always beat England at Association Football. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] It is a shame that such a small country can always beat a far bigger one. There is something wrong with their education. We have our football club, just the same as in London or anywhere else, and recreation grounds, where big gatherings meet, are situated on the outskirts of the town. There are three means of locomotion—trams, chars-a-banc and railway companies. One of the grounds is known throughout the country as Hampden Park. In March last a great football match took place on a Saturday afternoon, at which there were about 90,000 spectators. The railway company carried passengers from the centre of the city as near the football match as they could get. Not merely was the seating capacity of the railway trains leaving the central station occupied but every available standing place, including the guard's van, was packed to overcrowding.
That was bad enough, but on returning from the match, they had an extremely long train, I am told one of the longest suburban trains that ever entered Glasgow, carrying more passengers than the London express carries any day in the week. Everyone agrees that the London to Glasgow express, apart altogether from any question of financial loss, ought to be very carefully examined to see that everything is in order in the interest of safety to the passengers. If that applies to your London trains, it ought to apply equally to ours. This train ran right into the buffers at Glasgow Central Station, the brakes refusing to operate, and a large number of casualties took place If it had not been for the promptness of the company's servants, of certain doctors, and of the St. Andrew's Ambulance Association, goodness knows what might not have 2921 happened. An inquiry was held, and we found that the company did not carry out the necessary requirements, as I understand the Minister of Transport asked them to do, namely, that every engine leaving the shed to drive a train should be examined to see that the brakes are working properly. This company, which could not take that elementary precaution, that ran the risk of hundreds of human lives being destroyed, comes here and asks us for additional capital, when they cannot look after the plant they already have. This is a matter about which the Ministry of Transport ought to have taken some action, and even yet ought to make careful inquiry. It is the duty of the Minister to see that every reasonable precaution is taken to ensure that passengers travel in safety. If an engine drives a train carrying hundreds of passengers, and its brakes are obsolete or have never been examined, the company is endangering the lives of the passengers. In this case a severe accident occurred. An inquiry was held which condemned the company. I ask the Minister of Transport and the railway company's representatives what they are doing to see that this does not happen in the future.
A second item which I wish to raise is a matter upon which the Minister of Transport ought to take action, and that is the overcrowding in these trains. Why should a man or a woman, because they are attending a race, or a football match, or a cricket match, be packed together as though they were cattle, even worse than herrings in a box? For the safety of the travelling public I suggest that the Minister of Transport should take action, just as he takes action in regard to chars-à-banc, omnibuses or trams. In the accident to which I have referred, one of the worst features was that the driver was blamed for not doing his work. The moment the people in Glasgow read of that, indignation was rife, and this poor railway servant, who was merely a cog in the machine, was wholly blamed, whereas the directors ought to have been blamed for not carrying out their work and not seeing that every engine is properly examined.
In my native city the railway company are dismissing men and adding to the list of the unemployed. They are also putting 2922 men on short time. Why should they be dismissing men, when they are not keeping the required staff to carry out their work? Why should not these engines be properly examined, equipped and turned out? Instead of dismissing men and putting them under the Employment Exchange, their task ought to be to see that the men are employed in useful work on the railways. I make no apology for raising this point, because it is an extremely important one and one which has given my constituents and the people of Glasgow much concern for some time.
I wish, further, to refer to a matter which affects the employés at one of the works in Glasgow belonging to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and which formerly belonged to the Caledonian Railway. I refer to the works at St. Rollox. They employed men in the wood-working and engineering departments. These men were compulsorily retired at 65 years of age, but the company, for some reason or other, differentiated between the wood-working employés and the men in the engineering shop. In the latter case they granted certain allowances, but in the case of the wood-workers they refused to make any allowance. Among the wood-workers there were men who had been employed 30 years continuously with the railway company; men who had been with the company from boyhood and had rendered extremely good service. These men were turned adrift on to the streets without any superannuation or any compensation, whilst an allowance was granted in the case of those who had been working on the engineering side. There ought to be equality of treatment, and I hope that after calling the attention of the directors to this matter they will see that it is rectified at an early date.
I wish to raise also a personal grievance. The other week, I travelled with the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson), who is one of the most energetic Members of this House, and a man who has given exceedingly good service. He occupied a position as Whip in the Labour Government. We joined the 5.30 train at Euston. I arrived half an hour or three-quarters of an hour before the train was due to start, and I thought that I should be in time to get a seat. But when I went to a first-class compartment I found that in all the 2923 seats there were band-boxes. I found that they were empty band-boxes, and I shifted them. That is not luggage.
A quarter of an hour later, one of the hotel porters came along, and, using rather strong language, demanded that I should shift. He said that he had put the empty band-boxes on the seats for visitors at the hotel who would be coming on later. I refused to shift. Then the language became a little stronger, and he threatened to shift me, but having some experience of shifting, I stayed on. The hon. Member for Wigan, who, because he is an inoffensive man and one who resents anything in the way of a quarrel, removed, although he had been there half an hour before the other people on whose behalf the hotel porter had dumped the empty bandboxes. The porter demanded 3s., because he said the empty bandboxes had taken possession of the seats. He did not get any money out of me. The porter said that he was allowed to do that; that if a person stayed in the railway hotel, the porter was allowed to take empty bandboxes and place them on the seats in order to keep the seats for the persons who had been staying in the railway hotel. I am sure that the railway directors are not going to tolerate that. What amazed me, however, was that when I spoke to one of the railway directors in respect of my opposition to this Bill and I told him of this personal grievance, he said there was nothing wrong; that it was quite right. Imagine in the tramway cars if every porter in connection with the London County Council put empty boxes in the seats in order that their pals could travel and get a preference over the general public.
Why should the hotel porter be able to come along and monopolise seats by placing empty boxes in them? [Interruption.] I am sure that the hon. Member opposite would not be able to get a seat unless he was prepared to bribe the porter who had monopolised the seats with the empty bandboxes, or unless he took the line that I took. I hope that this sort of thing will not be defended. There is not the slightest semblance of fairness in it. When a man has booked his seat, it ought to be a question of first come, first served. Those who are there first ought to get the seats. I often find in travelling on the railway 2924 that "engaged" tickets are placed in practically every seat. There are very few seats available unless you have engaged the seat beforehand. In many cases I believe the seats are marked "engaged" without having been booked.
Another point. We who come from Glasgow and the north have the reputation of being very keen water drinkers, and we think that reasonable facilities ought to be granted to those who are travelling on trains to get a drink of water during the time of travel. A drink of fresh water ought to be the privilege of every passenger either first or third class. The other night I travelled north in a train and looked' for a drink of water, but I could not get it during the whole journey on the train. The only way I could get it was by getting out when the train stopped for the first time at Rugby and getting it there. I would ask that at least on long distance trains we should have a supply of cold water and facilities for drinking it as the privilege of every passenger.
I have referred to the question of accidents at several stations, and in this connection I would say that every effort should be made to look after the engines that leave the yards. There is complaint of the competition of the chars-á-banc, and I would suggest that if railway companies are to manage their affairs successfully they will have to improve their service vastly. Take the case of Glasgow. My wife comes to see me off every Sabbath night when I come here, and she has to pay 3d. to get on the platform, while in London she would get on for 1d. Why should people in Glasgow have to pay 3d. while people in London have only to pay the 1d? There may be a case for a proper charge, but why differentiate between London and Glasgow? You should have a uniform charge throughout the whole country. They have not to pay 3d. in Dundee. They pay 1d. in Dundee, 1d. in London and 1d. in Leeds, but they have to pay 3d. in Glasgow. The only conclusion to which I can come is that we have been too soft since we have come to this House of Commons. Possibly if we had made our presence felt more this charge of 3d. would have been long since abolished.
In Scotland before the War—I do not know the practice in England because I 2925 seldom came here until I came to the House of Commons—a return ticket lasted at least six months. Two things have happened since then. They have reduced the period to two months for long distances and to three days for short distances. Some time ago I travelled from Glasgow to Barrhead, nine miles away, by train. Barrhead is famous because the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) resides there. I came back by tramcar, I went out again a week later and returned by railway and I found that the return ticket was available only for three days. If you take a return ticket for a shorter distance than 15 miles it lasts only three days. Why is there this differentiation between a distance of 15 and 16 miles? A return ticket should be available for the same two months no matter what distance you travel.
I have placed these matters before the directors because I think them sufficiently important to demand their attention. I come back now to the problem presented by the great accident at the Central Station, which might have far-reaching consequences to a railway company. On that occasion the railway company had charge of the lives of close on 1,000 people, and the company ought to exercise the greatest care to see that everyone is safely carried to its destination. That can only be done by the railway company taking every step to see that every servant in their employment is properly qualified for his task, and that every engine that leaves the shed is a proper engine thoroughly equipped for its work. I hope that the Minister of Transport will take steps to see that these requirements are carried out, and that the directors of the company will give us an assurance that accidents will not have the chance of occurring again, and that those other reforms to which I have referred will be carried out.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
May I say a few words from the point of view of the railway companies with regard to some of the points that have been raised? No objection has been taken to the Bills themselves, and the Mover of the Amendment (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan) was so temperate in his language as to leave very little to say in reply to him. But I want the House to realise that, after all, the first duty of railway companies is to 2926 perform those services which have been imposed upon them, and that the responsibility for any decision to Which they come is theirs. They alone know the circumstances, and they alone are capable of coming to a decision which will be a correct one. If a big company like this, after prolonged and serious consideration, says, "We do not think it right to give up this depot or the spare land which we have because we believe that it is our duty to retain it for possible development," this House cannot censure or disagree with that in any way. As to the suggestion that part of the land might be used for a building scheme, I understand that was considered, and the conclusion the directors came to was that it is not their job to go into building schemes. I am not sure that it is technically outside their powers, but it is not within the spirit of what they are there for. I am told they did offer seriously to consider handing over sufficient land for the carrying out of that building scheme if somebody else was going to carry it out. With that I think there is nothing more to be said on the depot point, except that it may interest the House to know that 200,000 tons of coal pass through there in a year, and some 20,000 tons of other traffic, and it would be a very serious undertaking to attempt to move that depot elsewhere. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is the 200,000 a recent figure and is the figure going up or down?"] I assume it refers to the present time. Those are figures which were given to me. I cannot tell whether it is up or down.
The next point was quite a serious one raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) in connection with railway accidents. As I understand it— and again I only know what I am told— the hon. Member is mistaken in what he said about the cause of the accident. I find that the inspecting officer of the Ministry of Transport inquired into that matter and found that the driver, according to his own admission, must have misjudged the speed or mismanaged the brake, and that there was no finding that the brakes were inefficient or that there was anything wrong with them at all. I am told that the driver of the train did make some complaints about the brakes.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Seeing you have referred to the character of the man, and 2927 his competence to drive, will you say what was the state of the second chamber that the engineman is acquainted with when his first chamber fails?
§ Mr. HARDIE
On a point of Order. Is it fair on the part of anyone in this House—it may be done inadvertently— to cast reflection on a man who cannot be here to answer, and is it fair to use such language when the Report is at the service of any Member of this House?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I did not hear any such reflection. I am quite sure the experience the hon. and learned Member has would lead him to be very careful. In any case, is it desirable that we should discuss anything that has been a matter of inquiry?
§ Mr. ATKINSON
One of the difficulties which necessarily arise when hon. Members are free to raise any point regarding the conduct of railway companies, is that the companies can only make a guess at the points likely to be raised, and it is impossible to come fully armed beforehand. As to this particular trouble, the charge that is made is a charge against the railway company because the brakes were out of order. All I can tell the House is that I am told that the inspecting officer reported that the driver, according to his own admission, must have misjudged the speed or mismanaged the brakes. I do not suggest for a moment that I am in a position to express any opinion as to whether that finding was right or wrong. It may have been wrong.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Report did state that that engine left the shed without being examined as to the condition of its brakes.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
Again, I have not got the Report here. All I can do, and I think the House will accept it, is to repeat that the inspecting officer reported in the way I have quoted. It is not fair to ask this House to condemn the railway company because its brakes were out of order when the Report is to the contrary.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Report was not to the contrary. The Report stated that it left without its brakes being examined.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Apparently on the immediate question an inquiry has been held, and I imagine all that has been done is to give a report of the inquiry.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
A great deal of the stock that was taken by the combined companies from the Caledonian Company was out of date, and is rapidly being replaced. I am told that already 445 of the carriages taken over from the Caledonian Company have been scrapped and replaced. Insofar as that complaint is well-founded, it is one which is being rapidly removed. Some of the other complaints seem to be more or less trifling. I am unable to deal with them because there again, as far as I know, the railway company had no idea they were going to be raised, and although one has been supplied with information with regard to a good many things, that does not cover the price of the ticket on the platform in Glasgow or the drinking water supply on the train. I come back to the Bill which, after all, we are discussing. It is to enable the railway company to put down two small lengths of line to colliery companies, and to raise 7½ millions for the very purpose of making improvements which so far is I know may cover some of the matters mentioned to-night. It seems arguing the wrong way round to say, let them put these things right first and then come for the money. Surely the logical view must be to give them the money first—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The several questions that have been raised to-night were notified in advance to the representative of the railway company who perambulated the Lobby for a considerable time when these Bills were first introduced. There is one point of which I am certain that he got notice, because I for one gave him notice of it. I have asked questions in this House on the subject, and no reference has been made to it to-night. I refer 2929 to the contemptuous disregard of Scottish public opinion in the penalties imposed on purchasers of tickets at Scottish stations, as against purchasers of tickets at London stations. At the Central Station in Glasgow a first-class return tourist ticket to London costs 165s. A return tourist ticket to Glasgow purchased in London costs 151s. 3d. That is a penalisation against Glasgow of 13s. 8d. A third-class tourist return ticket at Glasgow costs 99s. If I get it in London I am asked to pay only 90s. 9d. It is the same journey in both cases, and it is on the same railway.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Mr. Campbell) knows what is in the minds of the railway company directors, or whether he is attached in any way to the railway company. He pretends that he knows what is in the minds of the directors, for he says that the reason for this differentiation is that they want to get people from London into Scotland. Surely there must be some other reason, for they must equally want Scots people to travel by rail to London. We have a Government, financially interested in the success of the British Empire Exhibition, spending public money upon guarantees, yet sitting supinely down in face of the fact that there is a financial penalty imposed upon Scottish people coming to London, particularly during the Wembley season. I, for one, can understand neither the financial direction of the railway company nor the British Government that tolerates it.
There is another point that has not been traversed to-night. It also has been intimated in the Lobby to the representative of the railway company. I refer to the question of third-class sleeping accommodation. A man who wants to travel on an all-night journey, third class, cannot go to the guard or attendant and say "Here is my pound for a sleeping berth. My pound is as good as that of the man who has a first-class ticket." The guard replies "No. Your pound may be as good as the first class passenger's pound, but because you do not have in addition a first-class ticket, I will refuse to take your pound and refuse to let you have sleeping facilities on the train." Not until the railway companies provide third-class sleepers for all-night journeys, 2930 charging for them of course, should elected representatives of the people in this House give a free or easy passage to any railway company's Bill.
I shall not repeat what my hon. Friends have said about the scandalous provision of drinking water on these long journeys. Protests have been made time and again about the inadequate supply of water, the lack of utensils, and the dirty condition of the water supply in the trains. Even in the first-class coaches the lavatory provision is limited to two hand-towels for drying one's hands when there is a whole series of carriages filled with passengers. How miserably, how shamefully inadequate! If you wash your hands during the first five miles of the journey you have a chance of getting a clean towel. If you wait half an hour you have to dry your hands on your handkerchief or your clothes. The thing is so miserable, so cheap, so inefficient, and so annoying to travellers, and protests by the thousands have been made, but all without the slightest effect. I am very sorry, indeed, that the hon. Member who opposed this Bill at the beginning saw fit to withdraw his opposition before a promise was given that these scandals would be wiped out.
There is another point that I have raised repeatedly. It relates to the hours of labour which men are compelled to work on steamers owned by the company. At a time when there is grave unemployment, when you have thousands and hundreds of thousands of capable engineers and others idle and drawing State money, when many of them are in poverty after having been out of work for years, you actually have these great and wealthy railway companies running steamers on the River Clyde, and, despite public protest, compelling their employés to work 90 hours a week. With other hon. Members I have gone with deputations to the Board of Trade. I know that the present Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trade was quite sympathetic to our point of view. He took the matter up at once. He said it was a scandal, and that he would do everything that he and his officials could do to induce the companies to make a change. They simply returned a non possumus. The companies refused to move and gave a most extraordinary series of excuses for continuing the system of a 90 hours' week in the midst of appalling unemployment. So long as I am 2931 a Member of this House, if the London and North Eastern Company or the London, Midland and Scottish Company comes to this House for extended powers, I propose to do everything I can to obstruct its Bills until these and similar scandals are abolished.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Like my colleagues, I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan) has not been more determined in his opposition. I have, had the duty of passing Earl's Court almost every day since 1911. I have seen it falling into disrepute from its glorified pasteboard days until the present time. It is now an eyesore. The reply of the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) was of a rather queer character. He made the remark that the company knew best how to use its property. That is an imperious way in which to champion the cause of the railway company.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I do not think I said that. I think what I said was that they knew best whether it would be right or wrong to give up this land, and that they alone could judge whether the land would or would not be wanted for further development of their depot.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
If the hon. and learned Member makes inquiries in and around Earl's Court he will find that the people who live there are better able to judge of what Earl's Court means to them than the company. The show ground is lying there idle, and at the same time there is a congestion of population coming from the other side of the river and converging on this point, and such a space as this would be a great boon. I still maintain that the railway company should find other places at which to discharge coal, more suitable than the place which they are using there. Why they should unload this enormous amount of coal contiguous to Earl's Court I do not know. The people locally will tell you that it is an eyesore, and it is high time something was done either by the railway company itself or by forcing the hands of the railway company through the medium of this House, to remedy the position in regard to this land. This is not a time to discuss how the railway company came by that land. They have enjoyed ownership of it for 12 years, and I am mot going into the 2932 question of how they acquired it, but I hope this discussion to-night, even if the matter is not forced to a Division, will have a salutary effect.
I am glad that my colleagues from Glasgow have emphasised the point about Buchanan Street Station and the underground railway there. I left Glasgow in 1910, and, like an hon. Member who previously intervened, I have not gone back, but I can never forget the ghastly conditions of the underground railway between Rutherglen and Buchanan Street. You had condensed steam, unsavoury carriages, and a service which was not at all conducive to the well-being of the community. When one thinks of that underground system and of the famous Buchanan Street Station —like a painting by a blind man of a derelict bridge—combined with the position at Earl's Court, one begins to wonder if the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company is really anxious to serve the public or to serve itself. There is another point which brings me directly home to my own Division. We had a local system which served the area in and around Stoke-on-Trent. The old railway company was known as the North Stafford Line, and it was famous throughout the country, because when you entered a station to catch a train, sometimes it came and sometimes it did not, but you were there. It has been merged in the larger organisation and, I believe, the natives of the Stoke area now report that the new service is somewhat worse than the old. I hope those who are guardians of the interests of the railway companies will take these points of criticism not as being raised by way of obstruction but as being genuine grievances brought forward because we are in the advantageous position to-night of having the railway company's head on the block. These points are sincerely put forward in the hope that something will be done, and I only wish that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Fulham (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan) had given a more definite lead in this matter and had taken his forces into the Division Lobby.
§ Sir GERALD STRICKLAND
I do not rise as a defender of the interests of railway companies, but to take part in this discussion from the public point of view. I am surprised to hear my hon. Friends 2933 above the Gangway threaten obstruction and talk of "scandals," as if a railway company is not a public benefactor by coming forward with a proposal to improve with capital the value of the productive resources of the country, and to provide additional work for skilled and unskilled labour. Railway companies have to compete with motor methods of traffic and with roads provided at the public expense for motorists to use; their difficulties are increasing daily, and when they come forward to raise additional capital and thereby swell the wages fund and give work they should be met, perhaps with criticism, but certainly not with threats of obstruction or assailed with epithets so strong as the word "scandal." I have travelled over railways in many parts of the world, and if there is any railway which is eminent for its superlative equipment, unrivalled permanent way, and so on, it is the particular railway that is promoting this Bill. Nevertheless, this is an occasion when all criticism is allowable, even if it be of a minor character, provided that it is constructive and meant to be useful. Although this railway has gone on improving until it occupies a first place among the railway organisations of the world, there is one point of parsimonious management in which I notice a retrograde policy. At the most important of all railway stations anywhere, at the great station of Euston, there used to be a refreshment room open day and night.
§ Sir G. STRICKLAND
At the present day no amount of payment would get a cup of tea there in the early hours of the morning when passengers arrive by night trains from the country. It is not a matter of substantial importance in itself, but I think so great a company ought not to show retrogression in any direction whatever nor be parsimonious at its home station. On another point, I think the future of railway companies all over the world and their opportunities and possibilities of competing with other forms of traffic depends so largely upon their capacity, ability and foresight, and, if you like to use an American word, on their "previousness" in adopting electric traction, that whenever a railway company comes forward with a demand for support by a Bill in Parliament, that 2934 demand should be accompanied with some evidence of its anxiety to adopt electric traction as soon as possible, and such a change is so fundamental that it should be pressed as a general question even when no Clause of a Bill is akin thereto.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I desire to support the point of view that has been put from these benches, and I want to say to the hon. Member opposite who was putting in a plea for the railway company, to the effect that some of those points had not been made known to the company, that most of them have already been raised on the Floor of this House. The Secretary for Scotland himself, as the result of a Debate in this House, promised to use his influence with this company in order to get some of those things remedied. I think that all sides of the House, irrespective of party, were in agreement with the Scottish Members that there was no case for this three penny ticket for the platform on Glasgow stations, but that is months ago, and in spite of the fact that the Secretary for Scotland, Scotland's representative in this Government, approached the railway company in this connection, we are still in the position of Glasgow having to submit to this injustice.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) also took occasion to draw attention to the ridiculous position in which Glasgow was placed, in regard to the return ticket issued from Glasgow to London and the one issued from London to Glasgow. There is this little difference between them, that the ticket that you get at the London stations is what is called a tourist ticket, but the ticket you get in Glasgow is not, and the difference between these two tickets is that the tourist ticket allows you to break your journey at various stations along the route, so that an additional benefit is given to the traveller, but the railway company seems to take up the strange point of view that, because that additional benefit is given, the price of the ticket should be lower. We hope we are going to get, as a result of this Debate, these tourist tickets issued in Glasgow from Glasgow to London, just as they are issued in London from London to Glasgow, and if the company gets a Second Reading of these Bills to-night, I think I am 2935 putting a justifiable plea to Members of this Houses—I am not seeking to make any threat—when I say that, if common-sense grievances like those are not remedied before we come to the Third Reading of these Measures, we should be able to look for the support of Members in all parts of the House for the rejection of those Measures.
There is a great deal to be said for seeking to encourage a railway company to make its service as efficient as possible. Incidentally, it will bring profit to the shareholders of the railway company, but if it is going to bring that profit, it is also going to increase the services that the community demands. We believe that the railway company, as a result of these criticisms, if the management pays attention to them, will be giving a better service to the public, and inclining the people more to take a railway journey in order to carry through their business than otherwise would be the case.
I would like to refer to the Wembley Exhibition and the interest that this House has in that exhibition. The figures that have been given by the Minister for the Overseas Trade Department, as to the numbers that have been visiting it, have certainly not been what we should like to have heard, and I think the railway companies might do ever so much more to make this exhibition a success. I do not think we have anything like the interest for people to come to London and see this great Empire Exhibition that the railway companies could give, and could give without having to bear any loss. Take the case of the excursions that have been run from Scotland in connection with the exhibition. It means travelling all night, being at the exhibition during the day, and then travelling back all night again. If the railway company would throw in one more day in this form of excursion ticket, which they have introduced in order to serve the interests of the exhibition, I am sure it would be for the good of the country as a whole and for the advantage of the railway company themselves. I am quite sure it would be of great advantage to trade as well, to have this bigger stream of people coming into London in this way, and gaining a sense of the extent of the Empire, its development and its industry; 2936 and I cannot understand how hon. Members opposite, who have so much influence with the railway companies, are not using it in order to get something more done in this respect.
I do not want to go into any very special details in regard to these Bills at this stage. There certainly are various points that possibly, as hon. Members tell us when we raise those questions, are bettor dealt with in Committee, but I am leaving them till then, and I hope that Members in all parts of the House will be with us in our opposition to the Third Reading of these Bills, unless we get these little grievances remedied, those little things where the common-sense of Members in all parts of the House sees we are right, such as this irritating platform ticket, the tourist tickets, decent cleanliness with regard to towel accommodation and drinking-water on the trains, and things like that. The railway company can have no justification for allowing those grievances to continue.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
As a representative of the railway company that has submitted these Bills to the House, I would like to express my appreciation of the tone of the criticisms that have been offered with regard to the two Bills. I think I can reply very shortly, because there is very little to say with regard to the points that have been made, except to explain why these things have occurred which, from the railway point of view, we admit, are things it is desirable should not occur. If the House will allow me, I would first of all like to take the question of this vacant land in Fulham. I should like to clear up a little point which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) made which, I think, was not quite clearly understood, and that is with regard to the question of letting some of this land for the purpose of building houses upon it. The General Manager has said, in reply, I think, to a letter from the hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan), that he would be quite willing to consider whether the company could spare from their depot sufficient to enable this scheme to be carried out.
§ Colonel VAUGHAN-MORGAN
The hon. Member realises that is hardly the assurance given by the hon. and learned Gentleman behind him, an assurance I should be very glad to accept.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
The railway company are perfectly willing to consider if they can meet the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and those whom he represents in the district, and they will consider any schema he puts forward; but, in saying that, I cannot pledge the railway company to do anything beyond fairly to consider whether they can meet him. This land has been in the possession of the old Midland Railway Company for a long time. Part of it is occupied as coal depots, and it is fully occupied at the present time. It is rather peculiar that in regard to this Bill, which asks for powers to make a railway in Nottingham to bring coal on to the main line, which coal would naturally flow towards London, at the same time we are asked to give up land in London which may very likely be required for the reception of that very coal. There are other depots in that district. Those other depots are at present used to their fullest capacity, and we must retain some power of expansion, unless coal is going out of consumption in a district such as Fulham. But I wish to assure the House that it is no dog-in-the-manger idea that the company has, but we do want to see our road clearly before us, because if once we surrender land like this, which is capable of adaption for the purposes we have in view, and those purposes are serving the community at large, it is necessary that we should go very carefully, and that we should not surrender something that we could not regain except at very great additional expense.
Some of the questions that have been raised are questions affecting the travelling public, and are questions which it is quite right and proper should be brought forward to show the delinquencies of the company, but, at the same time, I do not think they bulk very largely in a company of the size of the London, Midland and Scottish, which carries an enormous number of passengers in reasonable comfort, reasonable speed, and, we hope, safety. With regard to the Buchanan Street station in Glasgow and the underground in Glasgow, and other matters, we cannot go very fast. We do know that these are places which should be dealt with, and we hope at no distant date we shall be able to make improvements' there. With regard to the unfortunate accident at Glasgow, that question was inquired into by the officials of the Board 2938 of Trade, and the finding of that inquiry was not against the condition of the brakes on the engine, but the railway company have taken steps since to see that they make a closer examination of the engines than what took place before, and we hope such an accident will be by that means avoided.
There are other questions that have been raised. There is the question of drinking water. We are building new big trains, some of them running now between London and Glasgow, and I hope and trust that those trains will have ample supplies of drinking water. If they have not, I can only say they ought to have. With regard to the question of tourist tickets, if you gave tourist tickets from Glasgow to London, we should have to give tourist tickets from every big town. Although I hope I am not belittling the importance of Glasgow, I am afraid there are other towns which would say, "You have given this to Glasgow, and, therefore, you must give it to us," and that would mean that, during the period of tourist tickets, all fares would be reduced to tourist fares, and I am afraid the finances of the railway company would not justify them in carrying that out.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Surely the railway company could give it in the case of a place as far away as Glasgow. One would not suggest, possibly, there should be tourist tickets from Brighton to London, or anything like that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] The hon. Gentleman has said the expenses would be so much, but surely from Glasgow to London there should be tourist tickets.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
I myself come from the Manchester district, and I quite appreciate the difficulty in resisting a similar claim to that provided by the Lancashire and Yorkshire. At the same time I believe that in Glasgow some concession of that sort has been given.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There are tourist tickets. You can get a ticket to 60 miles beyond London, but a man does not want a tourist ticket from the Clyde. He wants a ticket for the return journey from the Clyde to London. You can get a tourist ticket to Brighton for 9d. more than your ordinary ticket costs to London?
§ Mr. FIELDEN
Then I hope everybody will book to London from Scotland. 2939 There is one other point; that was in regard to the closing of the works on Saturday and of working short time. The reason for that movement was that it was considered desirable to spread the work as much as possible so that the railway shops might be run for a reasonably lengthy time. In regard to the number of carriages, we are now building 2,579 new ones and 635 new locomotives. We are doing all we can to bring our rolling stock into a better condition, and at the same time to find employment. After this explanation I hope the House will give us the Bill.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I want to appeal to those who can assist us on the benches on this side on this occasion. I am very sorry that this very important Bill should have come before the House at a time when most of the Members have gone home, because they are tired and used up. This is a Bill which ought to have been submitted to the House when the House was able to go into it, for it requires the very best brains that the House possesses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] It is an obvious calamity, because quite a number of individuals might have taken part in this Debate, which has, in one way, not been taken so seriously as it might have been. Now hon. Members are trying to turn it into a joke. I can, however, assure them that before I am finished they will find that it is no joke with me; it is a very serious matter. Why should the railway companies require to come to this House in order that they may extend their operations, as against any other form of private enterprise?
Ask yourselves that question, and at once you get the answer. The railway companies enjoy a privilege. They have got a licence. Just as the publicans have a licence to serve liquor, the railway companies enjoy a privilege from the people of this country, and they get that licence from us who are the representatives of the people. They are the stewards of a great inheritance that has been handed down to us in this present day and generation, the great inheritance that was bestowed on this country 100 years ago this week when Stephenson put 2940 down the railroad from Stockton-on-Tees to Darlington, which was opened 100 years ago by the Duke of Wellington. As a result of that great invention we have our present railway system in this country. In our country we have the greatest network of railways in the world, in a given area. Those who represent the railway companies are the custodians on our behalf, on behalf of the people, not on their own behalf, of that great inheritance. Those who represent the railway companies have used that great inheritance in order to enrich themselves at the expense of the community.
I want to prove what I have stated. I know Members are not all shareholders in railway companies, and I believe there are some Members who are prepared, if we can prove to them honestly that our contentions are correct, to support us on the floor of the House of Commons. [Interruption.] I was saying the railway companies have taken advantage of their position to make money for themselves at the expense of the travelling public. Those are the words I uttered when I was interrupted. What do I mean by that? We have considerable experience of travelling on the railways—not only on our journeys from this benighted city to our native land. We believe in getting back to our native land, because we believeI to the hills will lift mine eyes. From whence doth come my aid.Not only have we experience of travelling to Scotland, but of travelling all over Britain in carrying on our propaganda on behalf of Socialism, and there we see what goes on on the railways.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not in order in discussing the workings of railways, or the use of them in general on this Motion. The Debate has had a very wide scope, but there must be some connection in the hon. Member's remarks with this particular railway.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I will give the experience of two of my colleagues in connection with this particular railway. They had a bitter experience in travelling in one of the carriages belonging to this particular company—I refer to the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. R. Mitchell) and the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. T. Henderson). They were travelling in a railway compartment in the night time 2941 when the carriage door flew open, and the train had to be stopped. That was made right, but they had not gone very much further when another carriage door flew open. [Laughter.] If hon. Members opposite can afford to laugh at that statement, it only shows the mental calibre they are made up of. Here you have a railway company which has the audacity to come here and ask for concessions from us, and request us to hand over to them certain rights, and this is how they behave when they get those rights, and the doors of the carriages are in such a disgraceful condition that they will not remain shut.
When you are lying stretched out on a carriage seat, travelling all night, after doing a hard week's work, hammering facts into the heads of you benighted folk opposite, the door flies open when the train is going between 60 or 70 miles an hour, and there is only one foot betwixt you and death if you happen to wake up. Had my two colleagues not been two cool Scotsmen, in all probability they would not have been alive to-day to tell the tale. That is one of my complaints against this particular company. Again, when travelling on this particular company's line at night, both third-class and first-class passengers, ladies and gentlemen, have to use the same lavatory. These are facts and that is what is going on, and this kind of thing is being done more now than before the amalgamation of the railways. We certainly have not had as good travelling facilities as we had before the amalgamation took place. The last speaker made some attempt to justify the railway companies in their blood-sucking operations, and in his preamble he stated that this railway company had been approached regarding the state of the underground railways in and around Glasgow.
That is perfectly true. I went to Mr. Dalrymple, the manager of the Glasgow Corporation Tramways Department, and got him to make out a map of the entire underground railway system of Glasgow, in order that I might lay it before the Minister of Transport here in the House of Commons, to demonstrate to him that in Glasgow, with our underground system, we already have the tubes, but with this difference, that our system, owing to the blood-sucking operations of the railway 2942 directors, is under steam, and the Underground is a scandal to civilisation. You dare not go into the Central Underground Station, or Glasgow Cross Underground Station, or Charing Cross, or Anderson Cross, unless you take the risk of having all your clothes smutted by the effects of the steam going on the roof and bringing down the soot. It is a regular disgrace. The President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Transport went to this railway company and appealed to them. It is not only that electricity is certainly bound to be the motive power of the future, but my idea in taking the matter up at that time was to find good, necessary work for unemployed engineers in Glasgow. Here was a method whereby we could employ thousands of engineers, at a time when they are employing engineers at making roads—destroying engineers. Here was a method, and the people who should have come to our support refused to do so—these people who are getting grants. You come here begging, you rich men come here begging on your bended knees to this House—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
They come here, Mr. Speaker, on their bended knees; they come here cap in hand, they send their lawyer fraternity to lobby us here in the House of Commons, in order to get their Bills through, they come here like any common beggar man, although they pose as great, rich, wealthy, independent men. It is not true; they have no independence; all they are interested in is in wringing profit out of the system. There was an opportunity, if the railway directors were, as they posed to be, patriots out for the benefit of their country, out to make this a great Empire that will always be booming, and pretending that they are interested in it. They are only interested in their own selfish gain. Again, I appealed to the railway company on behalf of the working men who work in the yards in my constituency. Prior to the War, we could travel from Glasgow, as I did for many years, down to Clydebank, a matter of 10 miles, and we got workmen's tickets at 1s. a week—six workmen's return tickets. Now they demand 3s. for the 2943 same—3s. from men who are working for 39s. a week. Those are the robbers who live on the flesh and blood of the working classes. Those individuals extract this 3s. from the workers who are working for 39s. a week when they have a full week. Nothing could be more inhumane. I appeal to the railway company. I induced the Labour party when they were in office to use their whole influence with the company to grant some concession to the people I represent on the banks of the Clyde, and they refused. The galling part of it is this. This is what enrages me against them. There is no finer type of workman in the world. It is said they will not work. That statement is absolutely untrue. They competed against the world for those two cruisers for Australia, and they got the cruisers, proving conclusively, if that were necessary, to a lot of thickheads in this country that those men are capable. They would not concede anything to them, but what do you think they did concede? They gave that concession that I appealed for to those who were going to play golf. They refused to give us any assistance to help us over this difficulty that we are in in this terrible crisis through which we are passing on the Clyde. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] I can speak up. I am not like a lot of you—tools. When we appealed to them they turned a deaf ear. Yet to individuals who are going to enjoy themselves they can give all manner of concessions. To people who can afford to golf on an afternoon they give reduced fares. Yet the very men that this Empire depends upon, the working folk, get no concessions from those hard, brass-faced men who have the hardihood to come here.
One other point I wish to raise. Again it is the same railway company. Dumbarton is a very old town, hoary with tradition. In Dumbarton there is a level crossing. That level crossing over your railway may have served its day and generation, but that day has passed. The scene has changed, because there is a spirit abroad in the land which says the working folk of the country must be housed better than ever they were before. 2944 Dumbarton has caught that spirit. Dumbarton Town Council have a great housing scheme. They are doing away with their slums, and taking the people from houses that are anything from 100 to 150 years old, and sending them to the new housing scheme. To get to that new housing scheme, they have to go over a level crossing on the main line. We have appealed to the railway company. I used the whole weight of the Labour movement when Labour was in office, to get the railway company to put up a bridge instead of the level crossing. They would do nothing. Their answer was on the same lines as that given to-day by a Minister, when he said, with respect to blind children at a school in London, that none had been hurt. The railway company said that no children had been killed in going to their homes in the new housing scheme.
These are the outstanding facts that occur to me at the moment, because I have just come from addressing a huge open-air meeting, where I have been busy denouncing the present rulers in our native land. I take advantage of this occasion to appeal to the patient oxen on the other side, who line up against anything that comes from these benches. I still have hope, because hope does spring eternal in the human breast, and it is a good thing that it does, that there will be men left here to-night who will dare to be a Daniel, who will dare to vote against pounds, shillings and pence, and who will dare to support us. We have no axe to grind, no shares in any railway companies, and no shares in anything but in our native land, and we believe that in this instance we are appealing in the best interests of the entire community of Great Britain in asking that the rulers in Britain will not be dragged at the chariot wheels of rich men, but that they will have the hardiness to stand up along with us and support us in this protest against railway companies, who have no right to be deriving great profits at the expense of the travelling public.
§ Colonel VAUGHAN-MORGAN
In view of the explanations that I have received, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ London, Midland and Scottish Railway (New Capital) Bill [Lords] (by Order), read a Second time, and committed.2946
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.