§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill, be now considered.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I beg to move, to leave out from" That to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House declines to consider the bill until anion is taken by the Company to the satisfaction of the people employed in Trafford Park and Eccles, the representative organisations, the local authorities and the police, with special reference to the Barton and Trafford Road Bridges, to reduce loss of productive time to a minimum and to organise the times of closing the bridges so as to minimise inconvenience to both the road and Ship Canal users; and calls upon the Minister of Transport to consider the urgent need for a modern bridge at Weaste, Salford; and further calls on the Ministers of Housing and Local Government, Health, and Transport, to take urgent action to eliminate the contamination of the Manchester Ship Canal in order to safeguard the health of the people between Salford, Eccles and Warrington.As a result of this Motion appearing in the Press and of my meeting this weekend so many people on the roads in the area concerned, I am very pleased that we have taken the line we have taken. Let me make it quite clear at the beginning that my hon. Friends and I have nothing but good will towards the Manchester Ship Canal Company. In that area, we all owe too much to the company to take a narrow or sectarian view of what is at stake in this debate, and, therefore, our attitude towards this Bill is quite different to one which often finds expression in just a partisan way.
This House spends days and days and has special Committees for considering the affairs of Scotland, where there is a population of 5,192,000 people. This House spends days and days in considering Welsh affairs, and the population of Wales is 2,622,000. Thanks to my hon. Friends who have signed this Motion, for a change this House will consider an area in which 11 million people live, and where there is the greatest density of population in the country, and probably in the world, within a 50-mile radius of the centre, about which we shill be speaking in this debate.
1370 In reference to my own association with the problems with which we shall be dealing, I remember listening to my father over fifty years ago, when I was a mere boy, speaking on some of the problems with which we are still confronted today. Later on, as a result of my being apprenticed in the same large works, I used to hear the men speaking about them. I am still associated with these men, and I know their views in regard to this matter. To sum up this aspect of my case, we have suffered from forty years of procrastination and frustration, and we think that the time has arrived when the Minister, on behalf of the Ministry, should accept the responsibility for taking the initiative to deal with the problems which my hon. Friends and I will raise during the course of this debate.
Our main concern will be stated under three headings, and I should like the Minister to take a note of them, so that he can fill in the details afterwards. The first concerns the delays at peak hours at Barton and Trafford Road bridges, the enormous loss of productive time, the irritation caused, the increased risks of accidents, and the confusion caused to transport, with which the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) will be more familiar than most other people. I hope the hon. Gentleman will speak in the debate, not only from his knowledge gained when he represented Eccles in this House, but reinforced by his new responsibilities as chairman of one of the greatest transport concerns in this large industrial area.
While speaking on this subject, and in case I should forget it later on, I think it needs to be said that every living Member and former Member for Eccles is keenly in support of this Motion, and I refer to my hon. Friend the present Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) who has a great record in representing that division, my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort), who represented it for many years, and the hon. Baronet the present Member for Withington.
Secondly, we shall be speaking about the urgent need for a twentieth century bridge between Stott Lane and Weaste, Salford. Thirdly, we shall deal with and give evidence of the seriousness of the pollution resulting in the contamination of this great industrial waterway, the 1371 Manchester Ship Canal, which gives rise to air pollution over a very wide area.
The Manchester Ship Canal Company has prepared a very reasoned case, most of which I accept, and whoever is responsible for its preparation has done a first-class job. It is a reasoned case, and if only we can conduct our proceeding on the basis of reason of that kind and come to mutually acceptable conclusions, then democracy in this country will continue to function and bring about improved conditions for the people in every possible way.
I accept that case, with the exception of that part dealing with the delays on the canal and the difficulties of dealing with shipping, upon which I will make some observations later. I have here the Order Paper for 22nd February, 1956, and I also have with me, in case anyone challenges me on anything, a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of that debate. I am pleased to say that on the Order Paper for that date were set out the proposed controls which, it was suggested at that time, should operate at Barton Bridge.
In giving the House, and in particular the Minister, the details of what I have just outlined, I do not propose to make any observations in regard to my own opinions. I shall state my case upon the basis of the opinions of others who act in a representative capacity, who are experienced and are employed in the area. First of all, there are six trades councils in the area, for Eccles, Manchester and Salford, Stretford, Altrincham, Walkden, and Farnworth, all keenly in support of the line we are taking tonight.
The first letter from which I want to give extracts is one which I have received from the secretary of the works committee at the Metropolitan-Vickers branch of Associated Electrical Industries, where approximately 25,000 men are employed in one factory alone in Trafford Park. The writer is acknowledged in the Manchester area as being an authority on transport problems, of which he has had long experience. He was the chairman of the Manchester Corporation Transport Committee for several years, and it is from the letter of Councillor Blackwell that I now quote: 1372I think I can let you have the feeling of the workers of this factory in regard to the inconvenience caused by the Barton and Trafford Road bridges …the working hours lost by many thousands of workers who have no alternative but to sit in buses while some very small ship passes through…Even at ordinary times in the day, it could be shown that the closing of the bridge not only affects the traffic in Trafford Park but now holds up all traffic between Sale and Salford. When this occurs the transport of Manchester, and of Salford, gets behind schedule, and it often occurs that bus drivers are at their wits' end to try and pull up what has been lost. The result could be"—and is—a danger on the roads. I well remember some years ago Lennox-Boyd coming down to the factory and promising that he would see to it that something would be done to stop the chaos, but I'm afraid that only the surface has been scratched. We must insist that a bridge should be built between Salford and, Trafford Park. Until this is done we shall continue to pile up on the already existing stupid position. We must also have a new road on the north-east side of Metro-Vickers To take some of the traffic out of the Park into Stretford. This has been promised for years. Until recently I was the Chairman of the Manchester Corporation Transport Committee and you may be assured that I do know something of what I am saying. I have lived in hope but I'm afraid that I shall die in despair. You are at liberty to use this letter as you may think fit. Best wishes, yours sincerely, C. Blackwell.My first and only point on that to the Minister is that I hope we shall get an assurance tonight which will be worthy of the record of a representative man who writes in a responsible manner like that.
I quote from the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation which organises men engaged by Taylor Brothers, Ltd., steel works at Trafford Park:The siting of the new road bridge is such"—this is about the high level bridge, I had better tell the Minister, so that there may be no misunderstanding—that it is difficult to see that it will do much to relieve the ever present hold ups when ships are passing through Barton Bridge. It having been stated that the Ship Canal Company consider that the present agreement to avoid, as much as possible, the opening for ship movement of Barton Bridge at works release times should no longer be necessary when the new road bridge opens, we feel that this idea should be strongly challenged.And I strongly agree with that.It has to be recorded, however, that for some reason or other this agreement has not been very effective. We welcome your efforts to get an extra bridge built between Barton Bridge and Salford, Yours fraternally. R. Guy.1373 I refer now to a letter I received from the vicar at Barton. I shall not read as much of it as I really should do, I think, because I want to pass on to other matters, but I wish I could get the whole of this letter on the record because it is one of the finest phrased letters I have ever read. Here are just two or three extracts:I wish to offer encouragement, support and assistance in every effort you may be able to make in what I had begun to fear was a lost cause.This is what we have got to be on our guard against in Britain. We have got so to conduct ourselves, and so exert independence, determination and courage that people will retain their confidence in the ability of the democratic machine to deal with their problems. That cannot be in modern life with the tempo of life as it is, unless people acting in a representative capacity remember their roots and are worthy of those who repose confidence in them, and are all things to all men. We must remember that if we are to save our democratic institutions from what happens in some other countries.Present conditions are unjust and outdated, and any worsening would be unthinkable. I ask you to consider the impropriety, amounting to irreverence, of Divine Worship being interfered with, and hundreds of people impeded in church attendance, at the will of the Manchester Ship Canal Company. I have the honour to be, Respectfully yours, George Dalston—the Rev. George Dalston. He says that his church must be rebuilt on the other side of the canal and taken away from its present site. That is an example of what we are complaining about.
I believe that the present Town Clerk of Eccles has done excellent work in connection with this matter. He has pre-paid a number of reports, copies of which I have with me. I cannot do justice to them because it would take too long to read them, but I do want to put on record the fact that he has prepared excellent reports, and I shall refer to them later. I have the minutes and reports he prepared, and I shall content my self with giving just one extract in which he says:The Manchester Ship Canal Company and the Manchester steamship owners have indicated to their representatives that once the new high level bridge on the Eccles—Stretford by-pass is opened to traffic, which is expected to be about the beginning of July, 1374 the Company and the Association will no longer wish to be bound by the existing agreement with the Committee whereby the swinging of Barton Bridge against the road traffic during morning and evening peak traffic periods is restricted. The Company and the Association have requested that therefore the whole question should be reviewed at an early date by all concerned.I have the minutes of the meeting, a record of who were present, of the reaction of the Committee and of what took place.
The proposal of the Manchester Ship Canal Company and the steamship owners created great concern throughout the area, and it is that concern which is reflecting itself in the observations which we are making tonight. In order that there should be no dubiety I share that concern with the people in the area, and so do my hon. Friends who have associated themselves with me in this Motion.
In my view—and I want to say this as strongly as I posibly can—there should be no compromise in any way over the present arrangements which have been made. If anything, they are not adequate, and I shall come to that later, when I wish to make an appeal with constructive suggestions which I hope the Minister will consider.
This area is the centre of a larger area where the density of population and the concentration of industry are probably the greatest in Britain.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
My hon. Friend says in the world. In an area of this kind efficient transport is vital, and efficient transport means that there should be no interruption of the flow of transport. As it is, however, buses are held up if they arrive late, and they return late, and all this causes transport confusion, and it lasts for hours. It is time the Minister dealt with this to minimise delays. It is his responsibility. I have said nothing about other delays to men and women travelling on business or on pleasure or wanting to go to Old Trafford when as many as 60,000 may want to assemble together.
Some people say, "Oh, but you have a new high level bridge." My answer is, "Yes, it is a very high level bridge." It is the first bridge to be built between 1375 Warrington and Salford for over seventy years. I have evidence from the late Sir Gurney Braithwaite who informed me on one occasion of the large number of bridges which have been built over the Thames, the large number of old bridges rebuilt, the expenditure of approximately £9 million on a new tunnel, and of the consideration being given to the building of a ring road round London. While all this expenditure may be justified from the point of view of London, it is time that more attention was given to the great industrial area of which we are speaking today.
No one has more cause to welcome the new high level bridge than I because four years ago I said in the House that the new bridge would be welcome, but it would be no solution to our Barton and Salford bridge difficulties. Four years later those observations are confirmed.
I should like to present more facts for the Minister's consideration. Scores of buses travel to Trafford Park daily, but few, if any, will use the new high level bridge three-quarters of a mile away. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cyclists travelling to Trafford Park will not be allowed to use the bridge. Neither will the hundreds of pedestrians who walk into Trafford Park be allowed to use it. The hon. Baronet the Member for Withington will probably give more detailed information on this point.
We believe in giving credit where it is due, and great credit is due to all those who have been associated with and contributed to the building of this magnificent high level bridge. It will provide an excellent road to serve the through north-south traffic. It will ease the Barton bridge problems, but it will not provide a solution for them.
I hope that hon. Members from constituencies in this area will be able to take part in the debate. I hope that if they have any doubt about what I say they will accept the word of the police and of other authorities who are not politically active in the area. The Eccles Journal has said of this problem that the Manchester Ship Canal Company and the Manchester Steamship Owners' Association say that 1376…they no longer wish to be bound by the existing agreement restricting times of swinging of Barton Bridge…and the Barton Bridge Standing Committee had agreed that special observations should be made of the traffic conditions for a period of three months after the bridge was opened. The paper put forward the Ship Canal Company's plea for the elimination of the restrictions.
The police estimate that 80 per cent. of Trafford Park vehicular traffic will continue to use Barton Bridge even when the new by-pass is open. The county surveyor has carried out a traffic census and he predicts that the greater part of the bus traffic, together with other traffic, will continue to use Barton Bridge. The estimates made by the police and the county surveyor can be relied upon. They are additional evidence of the strength of the case that we put forward. They prove the need for this debate and the need for action by the Minister.
In my view the police deserve to be publicly thanked for the conscientious work that they do in difficult circumstances in controlling the traffic in the Barton and Trafford road bridges area particularly when men are returning from work. But all who live in this locality expect the Ministry to respond to the case that we are submitting today. The Manchester Ship Canal Company has given notice that it wishes to be relieved of the present limited and unsatisfactory restrictions. In our view, industry and the people in the area have suffered far too long and it is now the Ministry's duty to step in. The 1885 Act provides for this to be done. If provision could be made seventy-five-years ago to suit one man driving in a hansom cab, we submit that provision should be made to suit 60,000 people today, and it may be 120,000 people within the next twenty years.
The action that we shall take in connection with consideration of the Bill will depend on the Government reply at the end of the debate. I should like to enumerate our constructive suggestions. We ask, first, that the Minister of Transport should study the 1885 Act and consider its applicability to 1960 needs. If he has any doubts about our case, will he consult the organised workpeople and managements engaged at Metropolitan-Vickers and Taylor Brothers, and also 1377 other places, like Gardner's at Weaste, where men and women have to travel in the other direction from places like Stretford? After consultation with all the interests concerned, will the Minister act in the direction we ask of him tonight?
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the urgent need for a new two-tier lift bridge, electronically operated, at Weaste, Salford? The Minister is well known in the area. His recent visits have been appreciated. He has been back to school and he has received a great welcome. The Minister is able, experienced and well-informed. He knows the Manchester Ship Canal problems, and if he were as good as his father he would be sitting on this side of the House. The next time he comes to Manchester I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will travel with him. I hope that they will go to the Weaste side and consult the various representatives and consider the need for a modern bridge.
The bottle-neck bridges on the Barton road, which have been tolerated for over seventy years, were good enough to carry ladies and gentlemen in hansom cabs, but they are not good enough to carry the heavy power-plants of the export trade, the oil tankers, the heavy lorries and the scores of buses which use the road today. Sixty thousand people are employed in Trafford Park. I know the danger of prophecy and I am always of my guard against it, but I have so much confidence in what I am now saying that I 'rave no hesitation in prophesying that if this country continues to expand and hold its own in world markets there will be 120,000 people employed at Trafford Park within twenty-five years. I base that prophesy on the fact that most of the concerns there are super-efficient and modern, and they spend large sums on research with a result that their export orders are gigantic.
In addition to that—I hope the Minister will take special notice of this—Salford has rehoused thousands of people at Little Hulton, about eight miles from Manchester. Manchester—I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester. Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) will emphasise this—is now considering taking 42,000 people out to Westhoughton. If those figures are correct, it means that 52,000 people will be living out there within a short time.
1378 I listened very carefully to the Minister of Housing and Local Government the other night, and I prophesy that a new town will be built between Bolton and Eccles. That will probably mean that there will be 100,000 people living on that side of the canal. Hence the urgent need for preparing for that situation now. Therefore, we want a new, modern two-tier bridge which will take rail and road users, cyclists and pedestrians into Trafford Park.
I noticed—probably this is the explanation for what is to happen on Thursday—that the British Road Federation has had a delegation in Europe. Representatives of both sides of the House were on that delegation. I have a report which says:The Mannheim—Ludwigshafen bridge, with its twelve streams of traffic for trains, trams, fast and slow motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians in either direction was 'magnificent' (Mr. Wilson), 'absolutely fantastic' (Mr. Wedgwood Benn).I am quoting from the Guardian newspaper. Twice in my lifetime we have won the war and twice in my lifetime the Germans have lost the war. Yet the Germans build a modern bridge like that while we have to appeal to the Minister to consider our case.
I now wish to quote from the Eccles Journal of 8th July, 1960. Councillor Edwards was speaking in the Eccles Town Council and said that people could not sleep; they had a feeling of nausea and they were cooped up like rabbits. The report said:Because of the obnoxious smell from the Manchester Ship Canal, Councillor G. K. Edwards cannot sleep at nights.It goes on:Turning to the Ship Canal problem, Councillor Sullivan said he attended a meeting a few days ago which was well represented by the local authorities…The ship canal is a serious problem and industrial concerns are responsible for effluent which they discharge into it. There is a further nuisance from a sulphur factory. These smells are so bad you can feel them and taste them if you walk around Barton.'Then Councillor Edwards went on to say that he had been married for twenty years and he and his wife were often unableto sleep because of the deplorable smell coming from the Ship Canal.1379 I could also quote from the Manchester Evening Chronicle, but I want to get on now, and so I conclude with the following.
I said earlier on that I accepted the reasoned case of the company. In that case it admits this pollution in the Ship Canal. It then goes on to say that it has no control over it. As it has become so serious, the question arises as to who has control over it. We think the Minister ought tonight to accept the responsibility for taking the initiative to deal with this problem, about which I shall give some evidence.
This raises a very serious problem which is increasing every year. Here are the facts which no one can deny. One hundred and fifty sewerage works pour their discharge into the rivers or streams or direct into the Manchester Ship Canal. Two hundred and fifty outlets pour their trade effluent direct into the Ship Canal. We sing about the Blue Danube, but in the Manchester area we have running through there the "Black Irwell". It receives 45 million gallons of trade effluent a day, plus 37 million gallons of sewerage effluent.
The River Mersey joins the Ship Canal at Irlam—my greatest disappointment tonight is that my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), who used to live on the banks of the Ship Canal, is not present to take part in this debate—and it receives 56 million gallons of trade effluent, plus 25 million gallons of sewerage effluent per day plus the discharge from the Manchester and Salford sewerage works direct into the ship canal. This mixes with the oil that drifts from the oil tankers and the chemicals that flow into the canal, and so we get the terrible nuisance and the odours and smells to which expression was given at the Eccles Town Council meeting.
Our Motion has served a very useful purpose. It has brought these facts into the light of day. It has focussed the national searchlight upon a problem which ought to have been dealt with years ago. It has focussed the national searchlight upon facts which ought to be dealt with before it is too late and before a very serious situation arises in the area.
I have stated the case in as reasonable a way as is possible for me bearing in 1380 mind the feelings of emotion that I have, since I was born in the area and have lived there all my life. I think about the people there, I share their disappointments and aspirations, and my only desire is to serve them. I am very pleased to have had this opportunity of speaking on their behalf and of trying to remedy the grievances which they naturally have living in an area where the situation to which I have referred has been brought about by the industrial conditions.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
I must tell the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and his hon. Friends that they have rendered a great service to the area concerned by tabling their Motion. The time of the House of Commons is valuable, but, as the hon. Member has illustrated in his speech, this also is a most valuable area of our country. The area has played a great part in an unforgettable past, and I agree with the hon. Member that it may reach new levels of prosperity and strength in an unpredictable future. Let us hope that in the sentiments of that future those who continue to represent Manchester in this House will do so with a sincerity like that of the hon. Member. I have known the hon. Member for many years, and he has made kindly references to me in his speech.
Years ago it was my privilege to represent the Eccles constituency, and it is nearly thirty years since I attended my first gathering in the Eccles Town Hall with the local authority and representatives of the Ministry of Transport to discuss the then crying problem of Barton Bridge. Yet it is only at this late hour—in 1960—that there is to be a new high level bridge, which is supposed, at first glance, to solve the problem of the Barton Bridge. The essence of what has been said by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South proves, I believe, that there is no solution in the creation and building of that high level bridge, desirable and wonderful though it appears in the general scheme of our national transportation system.
The agony of Barton Bridge continues today, and will continue for many months, perhaps years, in the future. I 1381 see no solution to the Barton problem until a new bridge is created to serve the local needs which have been indicated by the hon. Member. It cannot be a quick solution to this problem. It will take years to realise it, but the main point made by the hon. Member proves that even at this late hour the Ministry of Transport should embroil itself. We could then have an interval of time, perhaps six months, during which the proposal by the Canal Company, more or less to continue the existing facilities in the opening and closing of the bridge in order to facilitate traffic, could be operated, and there would be an opportunity on the Estimates of the Ministry of Transport next year to consider the matter again. This would give us sufficient time to see what part the new high level bridge had played.
Both as a Member of Parliament and as chairman of the Lancashire United Transport Company operating the biggest fleet of buses in the area and the greatest number of public service vehicles into Trafford Park, I believe that the problems will remain much the same. Indeed, I shall quote an extract from the report of my operating manager, who is a member of the Barton Bridge Standing Committee, which is presided over by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann). The extract says:It is expected that all through North-South and South-North traffic will use the new motorway and that local traffic into Trafford Park will continue to use the swing bridge. As far as the buses are concerned, with the exception of those operating to Bolton. they will continue to use the swing bridge.The operation of these few vehicles of mine from Worsley to Bolton in no way concerns the bridge. The majority of my public service vehicles must still find their way in and out of Trafford Park on tine schedules which most of us know about.
This Private Bill is important to the Canal Company and the Motion expresses the wish that the Second Reading be refused unless certain action is taken. That is a Parliamentary method of control, but, naturally, I hope that the Motion will be withdrawn and that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will go as far as he can in meeting the invitation put forward by 1382 the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South. It now becomes the national duty, in view of what has been said by the hon. Member, of the Ministry of Transport directly to embroil itself in the affairs of Barton Bridge. This is a commitment into which my hon. Friend cannot enter tonight, but he could at least consider with the greatest sympathy the plea of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South.
Let us make a beginning now. I have illustrated my point by showing the agony that I personally have suffered because of delay over thirty years in waiting for the high level bridge, only in the end to find that it brings no solution to the local problem and to some other problems. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South mentioned cylists. I have sat on the joint committee concerned with another transport problem, the Dartford Tunnel. That tunnel was planned in the late 1920s and would have been suitable for the traffic of the 1930s. But it will be quite inadequate when it is opened in about 1964.
Cyclists wishing to pass through this tunnel must go into parks at the entrance, take their bicycles on to the lower decks of buses and put them into bicycle racks, and then themselves travel on the upper deck, paying 6d. to go through the tunnel. Cyclists are not to be allowed to use the new high level bridge. Yet in the North of England we also have cyclists and cycle clubs. Perhaps what is to be done in Dartford Tunnel for cyclists may be a partial solution to the problem which exists at the new high level bridge. I am certain that the prohibition on cyclists from using the bridge is likely to cause considerable local indignation and anger and that we shall hear much about it from individual constituents in the years to come.
I do not wish to delay the House by giving all the time schedules and my own experiences as Chairman of Lancashire United Transport. Suffice to say that the Canal Company has taken as big a step as it can. Let us remember, whilst we plead for the export trade and the needs of business in Trafford Park, that the Canal Company has a transport duty in the same business. The canal will remain one of our greatest civil engineering works, not only sustaining 1383 Manchester as a great commercial capital but making it one of the great seaports of this country.
There is a special Parliamentary interest involved here, because I believe that the Canal Company will remain our biggest Parliamentary endeavour. It took the promoter of the original Bill, Mr. Adamson, three years and £350,000 in gold to get the Bill through Parliament. First the House of Lords and then the House of Commons threw it out. Committees sat on it for 175 days, the Lords Committee, in one Session, asking 25,000 questions of 151 witnesses and printing the results in 1,861 pages.
All hon. Members received particulars about housing the other day which said that housing was the greatest single civic measure which Parliament was asked to deal with. I still think, however, that the promotion of the Canal Company holds for us Parliamentarians the civic record for a single Bill.
Estimates are made for all great undertakings. This will apply to my hon. Friend when he comes to decide whether a bridge should be built. The Ship Canal estimates were below the actual cost by half. Before the Canal could be completed, the company went broke and that splendid corporation, the Manchester Corporation, came to its rescue and lent it £5 million to achieve its object.
One of my predecessors who represented Eccles in the House immediately following the First World War, Mr. Marshall Stevens, when the great Trafford family estate was sold, saw the vision of the silent canal alongside the great Trafford Estate and Park and all this wonderful engineering machinery with its potential for our future.
These problems could not have been foreseen then and it is for us now to find solutions to them. I therefore sincerely hope and pray that my hon. Friend will make a firm engagement with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South that at long last a bridge will be built over the Manchester Ship Canal to meet national needs and, in particular, the wishes of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I must agree at once that the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) has very 1384 fairly put the case from the point of view of hon. Members opposite and I very much appreciate the fair way in which he has spoken against the Motion.
§ Mr. Brown
In supporting the Motion I shall not go into the history of the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal, which has served and continues to serve a useful purpose and which has helped to make the City of Manchester great. However, there is no reason why a great engineering feat should be allowed to continue to pour out filthy stenches which poison the people Who live along the canal's embankments and which spoil a great engineering accomplishment.
There seems to be some doubt why we have put down the Motion and there seems to be an idea that we have done so out of vindictiveness and spite against the Manchester Ship Canal Company. It is just as well that I should begin by disabusing the minds of those who hold that idea. We who support the Motion are not standing in the way of progress, but are making a genuine attempt, as we did four years ago, to improve the situation.
Our approach to the problem is the same as it was in 1956. We want all the improvements which can be made to clear up the pollution of the canal and to increase travelling facilities for transport and pedestrians. Those improvements will not be made unless the House of Commons, with the assistance of the Department concerned, asserts its responsibility and determination to see that something is done. We are not vindictive and spiteful, and an analysis of our record in the House will show that we stand for progress. But we stand for progress made with greater rapidity than has been the case in connection with the canal over the last few years.
This occasion is an opportunity afforded by the democratic machine to ventilate and remedy some of the grievances of the people. It is our job to ventilate them. Let me read an extract from a letter which I have received from a well-known resident of that part of Lancashire who says:It may be that we live in times, when Parliament is not disposed to balance the 1385 elementary rights of a few thousand private citizens against the interest of commercial enterprise, powerful and wealthy enough to en[...]st political and legal support on a formidable scale. But, if that day has been reached, Members should reflect that they long ago left democracy and true government behind them.Never let it be said that we of the House of Commons are leaving democracy behind. If we were to do so, it would be a sad day for democracy as we understand it, and if that day were ever reached, the edifice of democracy would crumble. Individual responsibility is the cornerstone of democracy and if we fail in our individual responsibility, then democracy will fail.
On an occasion like this, all hon. Members should accept responsibility, on whatever side of the House they sit. We are seeking to ensure that the Manchester Ship Canal Company faces its great responsibility. The construction of the canal was a great engineering feat jus, as the building of Barton Bridge was a great engineering feat. Why spoil it? Why allow the pollution which has continued for years, in spite of all the resources at the company's disposal—technical, engineering and financial—to spoil this great waterway from the West coast, a waterway which has made Manchester a great commercial city?
I hope that when we have ventilated the grievances of the people, the Minister will go forth with a greater determination, than has been shown in the past to get this problem solved. I do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary for the fact that the problem has not been solved. In 1956, the then Parliamentary Secretary said that he had no Departmental responsibility. I agree, but the Government have a responsibility, local authorities have a responsibility, the county council has a responsibility and the House of Commons has a responsibility for remedying the grievances of the people.
On 22nd February, 1956, we had a short debate on this subject. It was a debate which should have lasted longer and these same grievances of which we now complain should have been more thoroughly ventilated. My hon. Friend was tolerant and reasonable, and at the end of the short debate he withrew the Motion. But we have not forgotten, and the people living in the district will not 1386 let us forget. We are constantly reminded of the situation.
During that debate my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) made a humorous, though sincere, speech. He lived on the banks of the canal in Irlam for forty-seven years. Who can speak with greater authority than someone like that? When my hon. Friend had an opportunity to move he went to live in a more salubrious atmosphere. Good luck to him. When he left, he did not forget the people who were still living on the banks of the canal, and some of my hon. Friends know that the canal runs through the urban district of Irlam. One cannot escape from it.
There it is. I know that it is no business of his, but it is a matter of interest to his Department, and if the Joint Parliamentary Secretary takes the trouble to examine and analyse the proceedings of the Irlam Urban District Council and the proceedings of the Eccles Council—the hon. Member for Withington and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) know what those records contain—he will find details of discussions and the results of deputations by those councils.
I am informed that efforts have been made locally to try to put this matter right. They have no desire to trouble the House, or the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's Department, but they have a profound desire to help the people living in the district to remedy this grievance. They have been met with bureaucracy. I am not prepared to say how far that is true, but they felt the meanness of the autocratic attitude of the Manchester Ship Canal so much that they decided to send their complaint to my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) in whose division Irlam is situated. When a state of affairs like that arises, it is about time that somebody, somewhere, sat up and took notice. This has been going on for many years, and I hope therefore that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will consider the problem of pollution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South mentioned the colossal increase in the number of workers in that part of Lancashire, namely, Trafford Park and Metro-Vickers. Most of them come from 1387 Salford and Manchester. For a few years the Salford City Council has been attempting to find somewhere to develop to cater for the overspill. It tried Mobberley, but they could not go there. It tried another place in Cheshire which I do not want to mention, but they would not have them there. These people must live somewhere. It would not be British to try to prevent them; it would be more British to try to help them to live in reasonable living conditions.
Eventually—though I understand the proposal has not been finalised—they will come to the constituency in which I live. We welcome them. Our Socialistic principles carry us beyond boundaries, and we welcome the people who have been living under adverse conditions for many years, but when they migrate from Salford and Manchester to Little Hulton, Westhoughton, and Hindlay, they will have long distances to travel to work. I am concerned about that. This may be a point for the hon. Member for Withington and his directors to consider. An extra fleet of buses will have to be put on. If that is done, extra profits will be made, and facilities will be required to carry the buses. I am not concerned about the profits of the company. I am concerned about the facilities for people travelling to and from work. That is important, and it is something which is not sufficiently emphasised in this House.
I have listened to debates on productivity. Everyone is shouting for increased productivity. The Prime Minister has asked the industrialists to increase their exports. The essential point to remember is that the nearer one gets the workmen to the point of production, the sooner greater productivity ensues. I am therefore anxious that the Department should give consideration to providing the facilities required. I know that I shall be out of order if I start to draw on my experience in the mining industry where men travel from three to four hours before they get to the point of production. That ought not to happen in this modern age.
I agree with my hon. Friend's prophecy that this development is bound to take place, but, as this development takes place and there is an extension of work 1388 in the area, there must at the same time be an expansion of travelling facilities and amenities for the workpeople.
I come back to the Bill before the House. I repeat that we have no vindictiveness or spite against the Manchester Ship Canal Company. We are anxious to help, and have been all along, but does it not strike the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that this is our second attempt to secure some improvement in travelling facilities and to get the Canal purified? It would not cost very much to do that. With the products now on the market, purification of the Canal could be carried out from the Mersey estuary to the Manchester Docks.
It is determination that we want. We want the Manchester Ship Canal Company to realise that it has a responsibility other than that of confining its activities to its offices and making, or helping to make, Bills of this character. I want the company to ask itself how far and to what extent its actions and policies will affect the people living on the banks of the canal. I want the company to consider the men and women who work and live round the canal, because this area has the heaviest density of population. People are living in abominable conditions; conditions which ought not to be tolerated in a Christian country.
Can we not remedy this situation and remind the Manchester Ship Canal Company that, although the Bill contains all the things it needs to operate its commercial business, it pays no regard to the conditions prevailing in the lives of the homes of the people? We want it to realise how strongly we feel about this matter. The strength of our feelings arises from what we have seen of the conditions which exist there, and we are resolved, whether or not the company likes it, to keep ventilating this question until we see a different set of conditions prevailing in that area.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) will forgive me if I do not follow him for long on the subject of pollution. That is not to say that I do not sympathise with him and those who live close to the banks of this canal. In recent months in my constituency I have had very good reason to appreciate just 1389 what those people's feelings can be in connection with smells arising from polluted streams, whether they are canals or rivers. As the hon. Member said, there are ways and means of combating this, and one of the first things to be done is to get effluent agreements between the responsible authorities and the companies whose factories cause these polluting effluents.
I want to turn for a few moments to they main plea contained in the Motion. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) was extraordinarily reasonable in the terms in which he moved it. I was glad that he expressed no plea for any measure likely to hinder the shipping in the canal. All those who understand this area—I am not well acquainted with it on the ground, but I ha re studied the problem—realise that it would be just as fatal to stop the ships moving as to stop men getting to and from their work. The cargoes from the ships often consist of raw materials for use- in the factories in which the men will work. Equally, the ships take away the fin shed or semi-finished products made in those factories. The one is as broad and large as is the other. The hindrance to shipping will be equally damaging to local industry as would be the hindrance to these men and women going to and from their work across the swing bridge.
Nevertheless, I was horrified to learn during the course of the debate that the new high level bridge will be incapable of carrying pedestrians or cyclists. I would ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to get his experts to consider this problem and to see whether it would not be possible to hang additional decks on either side of the new high level bridge, to take a footway for pedestrians and a small cycle track. I agree that pedestrians and cyclists should not be allowed on the carriageway of a bypass road which forms part of the ring road system around Manchester, but I car not believe that it is beyond the ingenuity of man to accommodate additional light traffic on either side of the main bridge structure.
As for the proposal in the Motion that there should be an additional modern bridge at Weaste, Salford, I would remind hon. Members opposite of the inescapable fact, which is not always recognised when one talks of bridges, that 1390 what goes up has to come down. If we build a high level bridge over an obstacle such as the Manchester Ship Canal, it necessarily means long approach roads so that the bridge can be reached by way of a reasonable gradient which modern vehicles can climb without great difficult and down which they can descend on the other side. Workmen who would cross on foot, on bicycles or motor cycles, or in motor vehicles, would necessarily have to make a considerably longer journey to get up to the height at which such a bridge would have to cross the Canal. It would not be nearly so convenient for them as the existing swing bridge.
Furthermore, I would point out to hon. Members opposite that the promoters of the Bill, in their letter of explanation, incorporate a very reasonable offer in paragraph 6. They say:After the new high level bridge is opened for traffic the Company"—that is, the Canal Company—will continue to operate the present arrangements at Barton for not less than six months until the Standing Committee referred to in paragraph 4"—that is, the consultative standing committee which had previously been organised—have had time to review the traffic arrangements in the light of experience of the new high level bridge.We must surely agree that that is a reasonable offer. We must see what is going to happen and how the situation is altered when the new high level bridge is opened. Having said that, however, I would not detract from the plea made to the Minister of Transport by hon. Members opposite that there should be an additional high level bridge for the use of these workmen, as opposed to the present high level bridge, which is more for long-distance traffic.
Having said that, I would ask hon. Members opposite seriously to consider what it would mean if the Motion were carried. It would be a great hindrance to the use of the canal by shipping, and although hon. Members opposite might, for the time being, avoid one sort of trouble, they would very soon get themselves into another sort of trouble. In those circumstances, I hope that the Motion will be withdrawn.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
This debate provides an opportunity to consider the whole canal problem. I am sure that I am speaking for all my hon. Friends when I say that we have no hostility to the Manchester Ship Canal Company. We applaud everything it has done to increase prosperity in the area, and we recognise that in connecting Manchester, Salford and Eccles with the sea it has done a great service. We want to see an efficient flow of shipping on the canal as well as of road transport on the roads.
The great development of road transport in recent years has made this problem a bigger one than it was in the old days. The hold-up of traffic on Barton Bridge is a veritable nightmare to the tens of thousands of people who travel over it and go to work in the Trafford Park Trading Estate. I look forward to a great relief of this problem when the new high level bridge opens. I was startled to hear some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), say that this is "no solution at all". The hon. Baronet said that it was no solution. I was mainly responsible for organising the conferences leading to the promotion of this wonderful bridge. It is a tremendous step towards a solution. It will remove the through traffic, and no one can estimate the benefit of this until we have experience of the position after the opening of the new bridge.
§ Sir R. Cary
May I say that I was confining my observations to the local problem? As a solution to the wider problem of the Lancashire County, it has much to recommend it, but I do not think it is a great contribution to the solution of the immediate local problem.
§ Mr. Proctor
I wish to assure the hon. Baronet that it will be of great help to a local problem if we get rid of the through traffic. Queues of vehicles will be much shorter. But the benefits to my constituents will be lost if there is any interference with the present priorities of road traffic at peak periods. I am not sure that I can regard favourably what is said by the company:The Company appreciate that the operation of the swing bridges across the Canal must necessarily cause some inconvenience…After the new high level bridge is opened for 1392 traffic the Company will continue to operate the present arrangements at Barton for not less than six months until the Standing Committee referred to in paragraph 4 have had time to review the traffic arrangements in the light of the experience of the new high level bridge.That is a carefully worded declaration which gives nothing away. It says until they have considered it, not until they have agreed to any changes. If there are any changes in the present priorities over the Barton Swing Bridge, it will be of no benefit to the local people. I want a guarantee that the standing committee will have to agree to the changes before the company make them. It is not a great thing to ask, that we should set up a committee to consider these problems and that it should agree before priorities are changed. Those priorities took a great deal to secure in the first instance.
The ideal solution to all the problems would be more bridges over the canal. We require new ideas. This high level bridge is good but costly. We should put the "backroom boys" to work to see whether it is possible to get a pontoon bridge capable of being quickly pushed across the canal. If the bridge were a mile from Barton Bridge, with the road on each side, it could keep the traffic on the canal going—because of the slow movement of the ships—and also the traffic on the road moving continuously. We should consider the matter along such lines.
There is something wrong in a world in which we can build expensive equipment in connection with instruments of death, when we can go to Australia and put up the most expensive installations available for the purposes of war, and yet we cannot get a few bridges put across the Manchester Ship Canal. Even from a defence point of view, it is necessary that we should have more bridges than exist at present. The Canal Company should join in the agitation and we should ask the Minister and the Government to set up a committee of inquiry which could examine the whole problem and ascertain the facts.
Such a committee should consider the road traffic problem and the facilities for crossing the canal available to the workers at Trafford Park which is one of the most valuable assets in the country. I doubt whether there is 1393 another square mile of ground which is more valuable to us than Trafford Park. The facilities for crossing the canal are a disgrace to the Ministry of Transport and to all those who have been dealing wall the matter for the last forty years. This one bridge is not enough. We require facilities for people to cross at the point where they work which would be somewhere not far from Stocklake.
The next thing to consider would be facilities for shipping on the canal and this matter should be investigated scientifically. The ship owners are very efficient, but the cost of delaying ships must be great. We must look to a solution of the road problem and the canal problem, and it would pay us to solve both problems.
Much has been said about the pollution of the canal and the possible danger to health. One hundred and fifty sewage works discharge to the rivers and streams flowing direct into the upper reaches of the Manchester Ship Canal. There are over 250 outlet works which pour trade effluent into the canal. The records of the Mersey River Board show that the River Irwell alone receives 45 million gallons of trade effluent a day and 37 million gallons of sewage effluent a day. The figures for the River Mersey, which joins the Ship Canal at Irlam, are 56 million gallons of trade effluent per day and 23 million gallons of sewage effluent per day. We have not yet established the cause of poliomyelitis. At one time Eccles was one of the worst spots in the country for polio and this might be the reason. To turn the sewage effluent into fib; canal and allow the ships to churn it up and distribute it down the canal is something which is beyond decency in a modern civilisation. I call on the Minister and the Government to hold this inquiry and they should certainly inquire into that side of the matter.
The Minister of Transport and his Ministry are to be congratulated on the work done in connection with the high level bridge. I believe it will be a great relief to traffic, but I make a special plea to them to consider the problem as a whole and to see if we cannot adopt some new ideas, not tremendous structures 100 ft. high, but to have more bridges which could be pushed across the canal to keep traffic moving. I should like to be able to stand on Barton Bridge and to see as many bridges from 1394 there as I can see when I stand on Westminster Bridge. I am sure that if the canal were near London we would have more bridges over it. I invite my hon. Friends to keep up this attitude and to make sure that we have a Parliamentary fight for a solution to this problem.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. L. M. Lever (Manchester, Ardwick)
We are here tonight to consider the Manchester Ship Canal Bill and to give it a Third Reading. I should explain to the House that the objects of the Bill have no relevance to the very weighty and material problems to which my hon. Friends have referred. The purposes of the Bill are:to amend the powers of the Company to charge—
- (i) wharfage rates and canal tolls on goods carried in vessels using the canal;
- (ii) rents on certain vessels using the Runcorn Docks; and(b) to extend the powers of the harbour master in relation to controlling the entry of pleasure craft into the harbour;(c) to make provision as to the removal of vessels left without the consent of the Company in any part of the Bridgewater undertaking;(d) to extend certain provisions of the Road Traffic Acts, 1930 to 1956, to dock roads vested in the Company;(e) to authorise the closing of Moore Lane Swing Bridge between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., subject to certain conditions.I should explain that the Moore Lane Bridge is away from main traffic routes. It serves local traffic and is virtually unused between midnight and 6 a.m. I feel it time that we should understand and appreciate the objects of the Bill, which have no relation whatever to the very important questions referred to in the eloquent speeches made by my hon. Friends. For these reasons, this House should give the Bill its Third Reading.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
May I say to my hon. Friend that we know a little about procedure and Parliamentary practice? We are regular in our attendance and we take an interest in the proceedings. Mr. Speaker and Mr. Deputy-Speaker direct the proceedings of this House and they would not have accepted my Motion if it had been out of order.
§ Mr. Lever
No one has suggested that the righteous and correct Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) 1395 and others of my hon. Friends was not perfectly in order and within the procedure of the House. If my hon. Friend will listen to what I have to say, he will learn that I applaud the setting down of the Motion, but I thought, in view of the emotions felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House about essential human problems and the necessity to solve them, that I ought to bring the House down to reality about the objects of this Bill to which we are trying to give a Third Reading.
I should also explain for the benefit of the House and the country the importance of the Manchester Ship Canal Company, not only to Manchester and Lancashire, but to the whole of the north of England, and indeed, to the whole economy of the country. The Port of Manchester which the Ship Canal serves, is one of the major ports of the United Kingdom. The total tonnage of cargo which passed through the port last year was more than 18½ million tons, which was a greater tonnage than passed through any other port in the United Kingdom, with the exception of London.
The House and the country should know the importance of this Bill. It should be known that when the Manchester Ship Canal Company introduces a Bill it does so for weighty reasons and because it is anxious to give full flow to the exports manufactured by the skill and genius of workers in Trafford Park, in all parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, the rest of the North of England and the Midlands. They all use the Manchester Ship Canal.
I should point out to my hon. Friends that the Manchester Ship Canal is no mere private enterprise concern. It owes its very existence to municipal enterprise. The initiative was given by the City of Manchester towards the end of the last century when, thanks to the genius of Daniel Adamson, the Ship Canal from Manchester to Liverpool, was provided for the grand sum of £15 million.
Imagine today having no Manchester Ship Canal. Imagine today this country having to decide whether we needed a waterway from Manchester to Liverpool. Believe me, if the canal had not been built when it was, it would certainly not be built today. I am only emphasising 1396 the importance of the Ship Canal to the City of Manchester, over which I had the honour to preside three years ago as its first citizen.
The contribution which the Corporation made some seventy years ago to the establishment of this canal enables it to serve not only the environs of Manchester but also this country well. Therefore, I hope that the Bill will receive a Third Reading. I also hope that the matters which my hon. Friends have brought before the House will receive the support of the House. After all, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) have spoken with authority and with feeling, and that feeling represents the wishes of the people in that area.
Let us consider the problems. The object of the Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South is to have an additional bridge between Barton and Weaste. We say quite distinctly that there is no objection to that; in fact, there is very good reason for having this additional bridge. Let us remember that that area is not what it was. People who lived in the town in the old days were nearer to their work, and it was easier for them to reach their work. That is not so today. All our industrial areas—Manchester, Salford and Eccles—have inevitably had to expand into Ince, Westhoughton and Little Hulton to provide better housing conditions. Those working at Trafford Park have always been of tremendous strength to the economy of this country. I shudder to think what this country would have done in the war defending our liberties without Trafford Park.
Of course, the Ship Canal Company operates within its powers. No one suggests that it does not. None the less, it is difficult for the Ship Canal Company if every time it produces a Bill for the good of the company and in the economic interests of this country, important social problems are rightly presented to it by my hon. Friends. The Manchester Ship Canal Company has to get on with its business. In fairness to them, I will say that hon. Members who have rightly agitated about these problems realise that the company has to get on with its business consistent with justice for the people living near the canal.
§ Mr. T. Brown
I agree that the Manchester Ship Canal Company has to get on with its business, but the people living on the canal banks have the right to live in decent conditions.
§ Mr. Lever
My hon. Friend's intervention emphasises the strong feelings which are held on this matter. It is quite true that people living on the banks have a right to live in decent conditions. Equally, the company has a right to carry on its legitimate business. I say to the Minister that the provision of an additional bridge is a matter of paramount urgency. While I support the Third Reading of the Bill, I also support the spirit of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Lever
I tried earlier to explain that the points contained in the Amendment have no direct relevance to the objects of the Bill from a strict, legalistic point of view.
I hope that the poor Manchester Ship Canal Company will be relieved of its problems by the Minister of Transport and that the next time it introduces a Bill my hon. Friends will say, "Thank you", to the Minister. I hope they will be able to say that they need not ventilate any difficulties because they have all been met. The provision of an additional bridge is not a responsibility of the company. It is a responsibility of the Minister in conjunction with the highway authorities concerned.
Questions have been raised about the operating times of Barton Bridge. In fairness to the company, I must point out that there is in existence a representative democratic committee seeking to meet the wishes of those who travel across the bridge to and from their work in Trafford Park. I have no doubt that this excellent committee—I welcome its excellent work—will continue to discuss methods of easing the serious traffic problem. After getting up early to go to work, it is irritating to be prevented from getting there with the alacrity that he wishes because of the operation of the bridge. Similarly, it is irritating after a hard day's work to be held up for hours in getting home to enjoy the relaxation which the workers from Trafford Park richly deserve.
1398 The next point concerns pollution from the Irwell and the Mersey and other streams into the Ship Canal. This is not the responsibility of the Ship Canal Company, which is not responsible for sewage disposal and dealing with trade effluent. This is the duty of the rivers boards within the limited powers given by statute. I sympathise with those who live on the Canal banks and I hope that this difficulty will be eliminated as soon as possible, but the legal responsibility belongs to the river boards and not to the Manchester Ship Canal Company.
I hope that the Minister will give us some satisfaction upon all these issues. I support the Third Reading of the Bill and its objects, which are not in conflict with points rightly raised by my hon. Friends. The first point I emphasise to the Minister is that there must be an additional bridge. Secondly, there should be consultation. I am sure that the company will be most conciliatory. It has co-operated as far as it could, certainly since 1956, on the times of work of people who have to use the bridge.
The Minister of Housing and Local Government is not present. In fairness to him, I suppose that he thought that this Amendment was purely a transport matter and not one which related to public health. But I would say to him, as Nathan the prophet said to David under different circumstances, "Thou art the man" to deal with this problem of pollution. The right hon. Gentleman might have been present to answer these questions. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport will inform the Minister of Housing and Local Government about the vital points concerning sewage disposal and the elimination of pollution to which my hon. Friends have referred and which concern his Department. The right hon. Gentleman ought to urge on the river boards and other authorities the necessity to get a speedy solution of this problem.
I have expressed my personal feelings in the matter. I have upheld the righteousness of the points which my hon. Friends have raised. I support them to the full without any qualification. What they have said is not an exaggeration. It is the truth. I know the facts from 1399 my own knowledge. No one can gainsay the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South, Ince and Eccles, and even that of the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), who, I am sure, is sympathetic to the points which have been raised by my hon. Friends.
These points have not been raised lightly. They are important points to which I invite the Government to give very serious attention. We are not here concerned with a small population. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South referred to this matter. Within a fifty-mile radius of Manchester there lives a population of 15 million people. Its density is the greatest in the world. It constitutes about one-third of the population of this country. I emphasise this point so that the Government shall realise that we are not here concerned with a paucity of the population but with a large slice of it upon which the future life and prosperity of this country depend.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. James Watts (Manchester, Moss Side)
I am entirely and wholeheartedly in accord with what the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) said in his excellent speech. I also agree with the points of view which have been put forward with such accuracy and warm-hearted moderation by many hon. Members opposite.
The point Which I want to make to the Minister is that the importance of Manchester is that it is the centre of lines of communication in this enormous area and has been so since Roman times. This is Why the Romans had a little camp called Mancunium on the banks of the Irwell outside the collegiate church. It is also the reason why there will always be work in this area. The great difficulty Which has arisen in the district over the last few years is that Trafford Park has been created and thousands of people have gone to work there and have to be housed. The conditions in the factories there are fairly good, because they are modern. At least, the factories in Trafford Park have been planned, but this vast area of Manchester was not planned at all. In the time of my great-grandfather, whose father started our family business, the whole outside area 1400 was engaged in farming and in Portland Street, where my firm's warehouse now stands, there were fields and sheep. The whole of the area went up in forty years. As a result, there is no plan of any kind.
This bad planning arrangement extends from Stockport right up to Accrington and from Liverpool to Huddersfield. This area, apart from a certain number of pretty places, is about the most ugly and most unpleasant place in the word in which to live. There has been no co-ordination and no plan for housing, transport, hygiene and effluent. The whole place calls for a review.
This is not a Manchester question at all. It calls for a Cabinet decision, which must be made, to review the conditions in the north-west of England, Which have been forgotten for far too long. Short of a Cabinet decision on a large basis, nothing can be done. I support the hon. Member for Ardwick in saying that there are two points of view: the little problems appertaining to the working of the Ship Canal and the bridges and, surrounding these problems and causing them, the appalling and enormous discomforts which have been brought to light today.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. John McCann (Rochdale)
I hope that the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) will excuse me if I do not follow too closely his admirable speech about Manchester, but time is getting late and other hon. Members wish to speak. I want to say how pleased I am that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has used his extensive knowledge of Parliamentary procedure to table this Amendment to allow us to discuss in general the problems which arise from the Manchester Ship Canal. I have had a long association with my hon. Friend and know of his interest in this problem, way back to the late 1920s and the early 1930s. I appreciate the spirit behind the Motion, although I, too, hope that in the end it will be withdrawn to allow the Canal Company to get on with the job which we have given it.
In my hon. Friend's excellent speech, I was interested to hear of the letters which he had received. Perhaps I may 1401 declare an interest, because for four years I have been the chairman of the Standing Committee to which reference has been made. The Standing Committee arose as the result of a conference called by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) in 1951, when certain suggestions were made to the Ship Canal Company and certain restricted times were fixed. In 1956, the tames 'were found to be inadequate and a further conference was called, at which the standing committee was elected.
The Motion asks that nothing shall be doneuntil action is taken by the Company to the satisfaction of the peopleand it lists a number of people. My only reason for rising in this debate is in case the terms of the Motion were to be taken literally and people were to believe that nothing was being done.
The standing committee comprises the local authorities of Farnworth, Stretford and Swinton & Pendlebury; the Manchester Ship Canal Company; the Manchester Steamship Owners' Association; the Trafford Park Industries Association, representing the whole of the factories in the area; Lancashire United Transport, Ltd., which represents the four main transport companies which take the people into the area; the Eccles, Farnworth, Stretford and Swinton & Pendlebury Trades Councils and the secretary of the Trafford Park Industries Association. We have under review, therefore, the whole of the facets of this problem of inconvenience over the bridge, particularly at peak hours.
I am whole-heartedly behind my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South on the second and third points of his Motion. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), I have lived for close upon forty-seven years on the banks of this canal, a id I know the terrific inconvenience that people have had to put up with, particularly on sultry summer days when a fairly deeply-laden ship comes along the canal and churns it up. It is not very pleasant, and there are many closed windows in that area when that happens.
I also recognise that, though we are tremendously pleased that the Government have at long last given us permission to build this new high level bridge, 1402 we understood that the siting of it was such that there would be the least inconvenience to existing premises. I understand that along the whole length of the bridge, only five properties have had to be demolished, which to me seems to be a major achievement of draughtsmanship by the county architects. The real solution to the problem is a new bridge for foot passengers and cyclists, and, because of the terrain, some of us feel that this could be provided in the area of Stott Lane between Eccles and Weaste.
My hon. Friend may be interested in some information concerning the points which he raised from letters he had received. In the letter from the shop stewards at Metropolitan-Vickers, there was reference to the real solution being a new road in Trafford Park which would connect the new high level bridge with the existing roadways in the area. On 11th March of this year, the Trafford Park Industries Association, in a letter to my committee, said:You will recall that we are pressing, together with the local authorities, for a new road through Trafford Park to connect with the new by-pass which is considered to be the complete answer to the problem of the peak hour traffic problem in Trafford Park. Priority has been given by the Lancashire County Council and the boroughs of Stretford and Urmston, and we are hoping that 'the Government will give it their early consideration.I understand now that the matter is under active consideration and that before very long we will get that road, which will greatly alleviate the backlog of traffic which is caused every time the bridge closes.
One of the difficulties of the 1885 Act is that it specifically states that the Company should not close the bridge for more than ten minutes at each time. The Canal Company will not mind my saying that we have had different opinions on what exactly closing the bridge means; whether it means the swinging of the bridge, which opens the canal to traffic, or the closing of the gates, which closes the road to traffic. We contend that it is the closing of the gates, but the Canal Company contends that it is the swinging of the bridge, and because of that difference of opinion, sometimes seven or eight minutes is given as the recorded time for swinging, and that leads to a lot of misunderstanding.
1403 We believe that every time the bridge is closed, it takes traffic about twenty-two minutes to move on to a road which in about three miles has fourteen major bends and an average width of about 14 ft. This is one of the major problems, and the Canal Company can do nothing at all about it. If we look at this matter in its proper context, other authorities in the area round the bridge should take some responsibility for removing this backlog.
The second letter referred to a statement that, for some obvious reason, agreement had not been effected. The obvious reason was the position of the standing committee, which for four years had been actively discussing this problem. On the question of the times of church services on Sundays mentioned by the Vicar of Barton, I understand that, for services at a church which is within two minutes' walk of the bridge, the bridge will not be closed from 10.45 a.m. to 11.0 a.m. and from 6.15 p.m. to 6.30 p.m., so that churchgoers will have time to cross, but they find it difficult to get back. Talk about thirsting after righteousness!
May I call the attention of the House to a slight inaccuracy in the very excellent publication by the Ship Canal Company? Paragraph 4 on page 2 lays down the times during which the Canal Company has agreed not to swing the bridge. After the first four, which are correct, it goes on to list 4.35 p.m. to 4.55, and 5.0 to 5.45, which is correct, but the last two, 9.35 p.m. to 9.55 and 10.10 to 10.30 p.m. were negotiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles in 1951. On the basis of the new agreement they were taken out. Paragraph (b) says thatto regulate outward bound vessels during the periods set out in paragraph (a)and that is wrong. Paragraph (b) refers only to 5.0 to 5.45 p.m. Perhaps hon. Members would like to make that a Iteration.
The difficulty was that when the bridge was built in 1855 there was only horse-drawn traffic and, with the development of the Trafford Park area, which many hon. Members have discussed tonight, the difficulties have increased. It is the duty of the Committee and the House and the Minister of Transport to do all in 1404 their power to make sure that the difficulties are mitigated.
We had first to assess peak hours in which the traffic was coming into the Park and going out. The representatives of the Canal Company have been very helpful in this regard. We did have a bit of trouble with the steamship owners. I understand that to keep a ship in the canal costs £600 a day in demurrage charges, and they do not want to take the risk of a ship's being held up for any length of time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stretford (Sir S. Storey) suggested that the only solution—I believe it is the only real solution—was the complete closure between 6.30 a.m. and 8.0 and 4.30 p.m. and 6.0 p.m. The Canal Company and the steamship owners found themselves unable to accept total closure for such a long period, so we had to reach a compromise. Having reached a compromise, one difficulty is that if we fix three-quarters of an hour between 5.0 and 5.45 it is not enough to stop any backlog of traffic pile-up, and the Company must reserve the right to swing outside those periods, and if there is a swing just before the restricted period buses cannot get into the Park and consequently, when the men finish, the buses are not there and when the buses are there the bridge begins to swing again. These are difficulties which we have had.
We have tried to avoid them by having all kinds of experiments. We tried avoiding right-hand turns outside the bridge. We tried it one Friday night. It almost got us hung, for we built up traffic almost as far as Salford. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) were here he would have agreed to seeing the tail end of the queue in Wigan, 21 miles away. Well, at least we tried it. We thought it would work, but it would not.
One of the beauties of the standing committee is that at all times we have asked people to send in suggestions. If anybody thinks that the British race is not a collection of inventive geniuses, let him look at the files of this standing committee. Some of the suggestions have been completely fantastic, but there have been some that we have been prepared to look at. Much of the time of 1405 the local authorities in the area, particularly of highway authorities, has been spent on finding ways and means of obtaining the best results. We had a census of origin and destination. The Council was very helpful, and the police Lave been helpful, too, and we tried to re-route long-distance traffic out of the way. We are hoping that that may be useful when the new bridge opens.
We have just had the effect of the new working hours consequent on the shortening of the working week. We found people finishing earlier on Fridays and the bottleneck was built up before the restricted period came on. On 23rd July the committee decided:I write to inform you that the Manchester S[...]eamship Owners' Association have agreed to the alteration of the Friday evening 'restricted period' as indicated therein. The new restricted period'—4.15 p.m. to 5.0 p.m.—will he brought into operation from Friday next, the 29th July".Therefore the Steamship Company, the Sup Canal Company and the standing committee are trying to meet the altered conditions, but it is not easy.
The Ship Canal Company argues, possibly quite rightly, "Why should we stiffer this inconvenience while nobody else does anything about it?" It makes the point that the only solution until the high level bridge is finished would be the staggering of hours, but the House no doubt will be told that the buses are already committed at other hours and therefore it is not easy to provide ac equate traffic convenience in order that factory hours may be changed. But we have looked at this question and we are happy to think that it is not the workers who are refusing to co-operate.
The position is not easy. The question of the new bridge and the old agreement was raised. The Ship Canal Company felt that when the new bridge was finished the company would be absolved from obligations under the 1885 Act. We asked the company not to be so hasty and to look at the problem when the new bridge is opened and particularly to look at the position in the dark and rainy nights Waiting for five or ten minutes is not so bad in the summer when the weather is fine, but at the end of a long dark when it is dark and raining it is a pretty grim business.
The company therefore has cooperated and has agreed that for a period 1406 of at least six months, during which the police and the traffic authorities will he looking at the problem, it will honour the existing agreement. We shall put illuminated signs at Dumplington Circle so that drivers will be able to see from half-a-mile away whether the bridge is open or closed. If it is closed, they can go round the roundabout and along another route. We want also to put signs at Patricroft Bridge and Peel Green.
This is what the Committee has been doing in co-operation with other authorities. It has been a first-class example of co-operation between firms, the Ship Canal Company, the transport undertaking—which has a great deal to lose—the local authorities and the trade unions. We have been able to do a great deal, and it is accepted that the position would be much worse without the Standing Committee. The position, however, is still pretty bad. The only solution is a new bridge. I promise the Parliamentary Secretary that if he will offer a new bridge between Eccles and Weaste I shall have the greatest pleasure in winding up the Barton Bridge Standing Committee.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
Every man and woman in Salford will be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and his hon. Friends for having raised this matter so forcibly. It is because my hon. Friend has his roots so firmly planted among the people that he is able to raise matters like this with such intimate knowledge of an issue as it affects thousands of industrial workers.
I have a friend who is a fitter at Metropolitan-Vickers. In Salford there is a slang term—" to be bridged". It refers to the occasions when people are held up by the bridge. My friend tells me that when the bridge swings it may take him two and a half hours to get home. This might be thought to be an exaggeration, but I assure the House that it is not, because many of these workers live in such places as Leigh, Bolton and Bury and have to catch trains when they have completed their bus journey from the works.
If these people are "bridged" they miss their train connections and it takes them up to two and a half hours to get home. Such men and women are getting up at half-past five in the morning to go 1407 to work. In my view they should get a wage packet for getting up at that time in the morning without doing a day's work on top of it. One can understand their feelings when they are late for work in the morning or so late at night on top of their day's work, quite apart from the question of the loss of production involved.
A great deal has been said with expert knowledge by my hon. Friends about Barton Bridge. There is an equally serious story to be told about the Trafford Bridge. Trafford Road runs through the length of my constituency from the town hall at one end to the Manchester United Football Club ground at the other. The traffic along it is fantastic. There are tough dockers who sometimes take five minutes to cross the road. This is the normal condition. When we add to it the closing of the Trafford Park Bridge the situation is intolerable.
Let me give a personal example. I drive in my car to Trafford Bridge. When I get near the bridge I see a long line of lorries and cars ahead of me because the bridge is closed. I go to sleep for ten or fifteen minutes. I then wake up and am able to drive towards the bridge because the ship has gone through and the road is clear. When I get to the bridge, but before I cross, it swings again, and there I am for another ten or fifteen minutes. That is bad enough in the morning, but let hon. Members imagine this happening at tea time on a Friday as it did recently when 60,000 workers are pouring out of Trafford Park, which means that there is a solid block of thousands of people coming out of Trafford Park to go into Salford.
But it is often overlooked that many people travel in the opposite direction. There is an important group of engineering factories in my constituency—around Sir James Farmer Norton and Company. Many of these engineers live right outside Salford and have to travel home across the Trafford Bridge. Thus, there is an impossible situation such as arose on that Friday night.
I feel that the Ship Canal Company has no right to swing the bridge at such a time as that, knowing the inconvenience that it must cause. It should be made clear to hon. Members, who 1408 may not, naturally, appreciate the full facts of the position, that at Trafford Bridge, unlike Barton Bridge, there are no restrictions at all as to the time when the bridge may be swung. I think that the next point will be a surprise to some of my hon. Friends, who otherwise do appreciate the situation. I am told on good authority that there are not more than half a dozen genuine cargo ships which need to go through Trafford Bridge every week—which is nothing.
How is it, then, that there is this constant swinging of the bridge? The answer is—if I may say so, the Ship Canal Company has some responsibility for this—that the little ships which are going through and causing Trafford Bridge to be swung are not cargo ships but ships carrying sand from lower down the canal to a small sand firm north of the bridge. In addition, there are dredgers going through. The Ship Canal Company has certain interests in both classes of ship, which are not of the highest importance compared with the cargo ships. I think it is intolerable that a community should be held up in this way for ships of not such major importance as all that.
We are all grateful for the high level bridge which has been built at Barton, but it will make very little difference to the congestion in our area. It may help the north-south through traffic—good luck to it—but it will not help to solve the problems of my constituents and the people in adjacent areas. The only alternative is a new bridge at Weaste. I spent a considerable time last weekend examining the canal at that point, and I find that there are many suitable spots for building such a bridge. In fact, the lie of the land is rather favourable for such a project.
Now I turn to the question of smell. My hon. Friends have referred to those who live on the banks of the canal. I want to refer to the 2,500 dockers who work on the ships in the canal. They have to work all hours of the day with this terrific stench. Two of my hon. Friends said that this is due to the effluent from factories and also to millions of gallons of sewage, but it is not only that. According to my friends on the docks, much of this smell arises from the nuisance created by ships which are in the docks throwing their rubbish and their toilet refuse into the canal. This 1409 is an offence and the Canal Company is not responsible, but it is up to the company to prevent this nuisance being committed.
Why should Manchester and Salford suffer this treatment? It is an odd thing that those who do the hardest and most dangerous and dirty work always seem to get the rough end of the stick. These conditions would not be tolerated for a moment in the Home Counties or in London. Taking Manchester as a whole—I have never taken it as anything else and I am entitled to speak like that because I am Manchester-born and bred—I say that this would not be tolerated in that part of the country.
These are added burdens. Where there is muck there is money, but those who have to suffer the muck do not usually get the money. These long additions to the working day, which are not really necessary, are an injustice. A travel company once offered a prize for the best essay in a competition. The first prize was a week's holiday in Manchester. The second prize was a fortnight's holiday in Manchester. It is a bit thick—
§ Mr. Allaun
—that Manchester and Salford should suffer these unnatural grievances.
I shall be controversial not because I want to be but because I must. Great compliments have been paid today to the company, and they are mostly merited, but I think that the chairman of the company, Sir Leslie Roberts, has behaved, in my experience, in a highly autocratic way. I remember very well a meeting attended by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle), myself representing Salford, East, the elected representatives of local authorities including Manchester, Salford and Eccles, and the elected representatives of the trade unions. Sir Leslie represented the board of directors of the Canal Company.
I must say that he treated those elected representatives as a feudal baron would treat his serfs. When we appealed for greater restriction of the bridges he said that it was impossible. Molotov was a beginner compared with this chap. When we asked whether he would at least go away and consider it, the answer was 1410 again "No". I ask the House whether it is right that the chairman of a company like this should say to elected representatives of the public that he could not even consider the reasonable request that we were making in the interests of tens of thousands of workers.
There is a road, Wharf Road, which is owned by the Canal Company and which would help to relieve the fantastic traffic congestion at Trafford Bridge, but which the Canal Company is not prepared to allow to be used to reduce the burden.
We have had magnificent speeches from both sides of the House, and I now conclude by saying that we want three things. First, far from there being any relaxation of the existing restrictions on the closing of Barton Bridge, we want an increase, so that at teatime and in the morning around starting time there is a complete ban on ships passing through the swing bridge and therefore stopping workers going to and from work. Secondly, as quickly as possible, we want a new bridge across the Canal at Weaste. When I think of £4 million, I think it was, being spent on an underground crossing at Hyde Park, merely so that people can get across the road—
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Allaun
At any rate, it is a great deal of money, and I think that the country can well afford money to build a bridge at Weaste. So, thirdly, I wholeheartedly support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith).
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) are to be congratulated on bringing this matter before the House, for it highlights one of the coming crises of the next ten or twenty years—the need for an overall survey of our water supplies.
In sending hon. Members a statement of its case, the Manchester Ship Canal 1411 Company has done everyone a service, and I hope that it will be able to give as good a service to the Minister of Housing and Local Government as it has given us. Its case makes an interesting and valuable document and there is one sentence of it which I want to quote:…in dry weather the River Irwell consists almost entirely of sewage and trade effluents, with little or no clean dilution water.If we can put a sputnik round the earth, it seems ridiculous that we cannot sieve sewage out of the River Irwell and the Manchester Ship Canal. Not to be able to do so is almost an anachronism.
I sometimes go along the banks of the River Tame which seems to be a good deal cleaner at those points than it is when it arrives at the Manchester Ship Canal, judging from some of the remarks of hon. Members from both sides of the House. After the things we have heard tonight, I feel that I can almost smell the canal from here. It seems that the canal is one of the largest navigable sewers in the world.
§ Mr. McCann
I want to make it quite clear that some of the effluent about which we are speaking is almost as pure as drinking water and that it would be unfair to those progressive authorities which treat sewage properly to suggest that all the effluent is undiluted sewage.
§ Mr. Rhodes
I see this merry little river wending its way and when I think of what happens to it, it makes me very sad, but it will make the people who live on the banks of the Irwell and in the vicinity of the canal even more sad in future.
This valuable document which the Canal Company has sent out unfolds a page of history. From 1885 onwards, there has been a growing number of Acts of Parliament promoted by first-rate local authorities in the North to cope with the ever-increasing need for water. The building of reservoirs reached its peak at the turn of the century. Local authorities in the North could not possibly have visualised that there would be a stoppage of all large-scale civil engineering during World War I. Following that war the country was hard up. We were then precipitated into another World War in 1939. Since then there has been 1412 a stringent control of money and it has not been possible to improve the position.
The people who carried out this work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are to be commended and congratulated and their names forever revered for what they did for the local authorities, but the Manchester Ship Canal Company could not possibly have visualised what would happen in the future.
About two weeks ago a Bill sponsored by the Oldham Corporation was put through this House. It did the very thing which the Manchester Ship Canal Company put out in its circular. The Company said:The River Board's general position has not been helped by the number of orders made by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government because of exceptional dry weather conditions enabling water undertakings at the upper ends of the various Catchment areas to reduce the volume of compensation water sent down from their reservoirs. Compensation water is clean water which is normally sent down the stream by way of compensation for the fact that water authorities have dammed, for use by domestic consumers and industry water which would otherwise flow down the Rivers.This is happening all over the North. When provision was originally made to provide water for domestic and industrial use, the amount of water that would eventually be needed to cope with expanding industry and the increase in the number of houses could not possibly have been visualised.
The whole thing is hopelessly and utterly out-of-date. Why should a local authority come to the House and ask for powers under an Act of 1885 when industry and the building of houses have taken a different shape to that existing at the time when the Act was put through? I agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) that the time has come for a comprehensive survey of the resources, not only in the terms of how we use the water, but of how we conserve it and What we should do to provide additional conservation during the next two or three decades.
If anybody needs proof that we are at the breaking point with water supplies, the proof is in this circular. The Amendment has not been tabled in a lighthearted manner. It is a serious one. 1413 It has been tabled without any antagonism towards the Manchester Ship Canal Company. Underlying the Amendment is one of the basic needs of the town, and I hope that the Government will seriously consider applying their minds to taking action to deal with this problem.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Warrington)
I speak tonight as a Member representing a constituency traversed by the Manchester Ship Canal. I have listened carefully to the speeches and have noticed that they all have one thing in common—the condemnation of a system which results in the pollution of the canal, which, in turn, pollutes the air of the towns on the banks of the canal. I have heard people defending the Canal Company and others condemning it. I think of the company not as an impersonal entity but as a body of men who have known for years that the condition of the canal is deteriorating. I think of these people as men who pride themselves on being good husbands and fathers; I think of them as men who condemn cruelty to animals, who are pillars of the Church, but who have no collective social conscience whatsoever. They seem to be oblivious of the cruelty which is inflicted upon people by the omission of certain acts on their part.
I speak very strongly because I represent the town of Warrington, which has a number of industries which emit curious odours. They make detergents and chemicals, and it is necessary for us to exercise the greatest vigilance otherwise the owners of those factories, who generally live in the pure air of Cheshire, would become quite indifferent to the conditions in which people near their factories have to live. Added to this there is the pollution of the Manchester Ship Canal, which is a source of repeated complaints by my constituents.
It is a curious coincidence that tonight there is a meeting of the Warrington Council, at which the medical officer of health of Warrington is making a report. The Warrington Guardian of 22nd July says:The report, to be presented to the Town Council on Tuesday, says that a notable feature of 1959 was the long, hot, dry spell during the summer months which resulted in 1414 many foul smells from various stagnant waters in the town. Particularly offensive were the smells arising from Manchester Ship Canal and numerous complaints were received both of the smell and the blackening effect on metals of the hydrogen sulphide gas produced in the canal. The high concentration of gas was determined by the Water Department. The River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal ', the doctor says, 'are two highly polluted water courses passing through the borough and there is urgent need for steps to be taken nationally to prevent the pollution of such water courses which result in offensive odours at any time when the flow of water is reduced and when hot weather encourages the production of obnoxious gases'.The doctor goes on to mention the question of disease in the borough, saying:The report states that the death rate of cancer of the lung and bronchus showed a marked increase during the year and is now the commonest form of death from cancer.Week after week in Warrington we see big headlines in the local newspaper, such asRiver Pollution Threatens Industrial Water Supplies.That is the heading over a reader's letter, which says:Warrington has two big open sewers running through the town—the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. But these are typical of the area.I am conscious of the fact that Warrington has the highest death rate from chronic bronchitis.
I am not for a moment suggesting that smell alone is responsible for these diseases. But in a town where respiratory disease is very common it is quite inhuman further to pollute the air. I am surprised that the Manchester Ship Canal Company, as employers of labour, should not have a greater sense of responsibility for these ordinary people, working in dirty, dusty factories, who cannot escape to Cheshire, and who have to live in a polluted atmosphere which is still further polluted by this filthy canal which has been called a sewer. We have heard about the dignity of this great waterway. about the cost to the country and the great service which it gives. But surely the Manchester Ship Canal Company must feel that for the canal to be called a sewer diminishes its dignity.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) asks why the Minister of Housing and Local Government is not present—
§ Dr. Summerskill
May I say that I hope so.
Surely, a wealthy authority like the canal authority should have made representations to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. We in this House know that when we have a grievance we prod Ministers. We take deputations to Ministers and bring pressure to bear upon them. We do not sit back and say that this is our authority or someone else's authority, we say that the authority is there and we will see that the Ministers use it.
I should like to know whether on any occasion over the years, when the position has been deteriorating, the Company has taken a deputation to the Minister. I suspect that it has done nothing, because otherwise action would have been taken before now. I emphasise that I speak as the Member of Parliament for Warrington and a sufferer from the effects of the state of this canal. I hope that this debate will appeal to the social consciences of the members of the Canal Company.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
I think that the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) made my position clear tonight. The hon. Members who are supporting this Amendment declining to consider the Manchester Ship Canal Bill have made it evident during the last two-and-half hours that it is not really their intention to refuse leave for the Bill to proceed. Indeed, to do so would be rather nonsensical, because the Bill has gone through all its stages in another place and has come back to us for the final stages.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) made it clear that he wished to use this discussion as an opportunity to ventilate once more—this is the second time—the very difficult and complex problems surrounding the northern side of the Trafford Park Estate at Manchester. I hope that at the end of my speech the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will decide not to press the Amendment. The hon. Member for Ardwick said that the Bill contained a 1416 number of important and useful provisions which would be of great help to the Canal Company, and I do not think that anyone would wish that the Company should not have the powers contained in the Bill.
The second thing I wish to say relates to the speeches—including that of the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill)—about the pollution of the canal. As the House will know, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is responsible for a whole galaxy of things and I never cease to wonder at the extent of his responsibilities. But, so far, he has not been made responsible, either by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or by Parliament, for looking after questions of atmospheric or river pollution. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is responsible in these matters. I am afraid I cannot give comprehensive replies to the many points which have been made about pollution of the canal. What I undertake, and undertake quite sincerely, is to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government everything that has been said tonight, because I agree with hon. Members opposite that there is a very serious matter here to be looked into. I shall certainly see that he is made aware of what has been said.
Matters more directly within my province are those dealt with in other parts of the Amendment than that which refers to the effluents. I first come to what is really the crux of the matter. That is the prospects of the construction of a new bridge to replace the existing Barton Swing Bridge. Before I discuss that, however, may I say a word or two about the background against which this matter must be judged? As several hon. Members have reminded us, the new Barton high level bridge, which will carry the Stretford-Eccles Bypass across the canal is in an advanced state of construction. Completion is expected this year. It is estimated that the scheme will cost about £4 million and the Ministry of Transport makes a grant towards it of about £3.4 million.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I should like to have this matter definitely confirmed before the hon. Gentleman goes 1417 on. May I take it from the statement he has made that the Ministry has actually accepted full responsibility for tie 75 per cent. grant? My recollection of the negotiations which went on before tie inauguration of the building of the bridge was to the effect that the Minister would not commit himself and Lancashire County Council undertook the work originally without any specific guarantee from the Minister. If the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can tell me that tie Minister has actually accepted full responsibility for the 75 per cent. grant, I shall be interested to have that on the rocord.
§ Mr. Hay
So far as I am aware, but I am speaking without any definite knowledge of that.
What effect is the new Barton high level bridge to have on the existing Barton Swing Bridge? The present bridge at the moment carries a mixture of all kinds of traffic. Some of it is through traffic from other parts of the country heading across the canal to South Lancashire. It also carries a great deal of local traffic composed of all types of vehicles crossing the canal. It carries a great deal of freight traffic, particularly to and from the Trafford Park Estate to towns on the north side, such as Bolton, Liverpool, Preston and so on. At present, all that traffic has to go over Barton Swing Bridge.
In 1954 a traffic census was taken. It showed that 11,000 vehicles a day and 2,900 cycles a day crossed the bridge. The most recent details I have are those for 1959 when a count was taken and 13,000 vehicles crossed the bridge. That is the extent of the problem that we have to consider. After the new high level bridge at Barton is opened, we are advised that we can expect that two of these mixed types of traffic now using tie swing bridge will divert to the new high level bridge. Those two types are, first, the great majority of the through 1418 traffic coming from other parts of the country and heading up into Lancashire and, secondly, because of the connections and junctions formed to the southwest of Trafford Park, a lot of freight traffic from Trafford Park to north of the canal will also use the high level bridge.
I must be advised by experts and I am telling the House what my advice is. On the survey taken in 1959 we estimate that at the peak between 500 and 800 vehicles will be diverted to the new bridge. It may be that that is the order of the relief which the old Barton Bridge will be getting when the new bridge is opened.
§ Mr. Allaun
The hon. Gentleman has been saying that this will bring some relief to Barton Bridge. Probably he is much better informed on that than I am, but I wish to ask whether it will bring any relief at all to Trafford Bridge where there is this terrible congestion. So far as I can see, it will bring no relief.
§ Mr. Hay
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that it will. There again, I have no particular information, but as far as I am aware it will not, because the only traffic using the Trafford Bridge is much more domestic than the traffic using the Barton Bridge.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) asked about cyclists and what the effect might be upon cyclist traffic. In 1955, the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) made a suggestion that the Barton high level bridge might be so constructed as to allow for its use by cyclists and pedestrians. My right hon. Friend's Department studied this matter with great care and came to the conclusion, after studies on the spot, that the proposal would in fact involve an increase in the journey time of the ordinary cyclist going from Trafford Park Estate of 7½ to 12½ minutes. In addition, a cyclist would have to face a half-mile uphill gradient of one in thirty to get to the top of the high level bridge. This was compared with what was thought to be a one in four chance of being delayed at Barton Swing Bridge. The average delay measured at that time at the Barton Swing Bridge was calculated at about eight minutes. Many 1419 people wait longer, but many wait less than that time. On that comparison we came to the conclusion that it would be better not to try to make provision for cyclists and pedestrians on the high level bridge, which they might use hardly at all. We may have been wrong about that; I do not know. I was not there at the time, but it is certainly now too late to change.
The next point is whether we should build a new bridge for the residual traffic which will continue to use Barton Swing Bridge when the new high level bridge is open. Many hon. Members have asked that the Minister of Transport should take charge of this problem and should make himself responsible for the building of a new bridge for the local traffic at Barton. I must make it cleat to the House that this is not my right hon. Friend's responsibility, for the reason that the road which goes across the present Barton Bridge is not a trunk road. The Minister of Transport is responsible by Act of Parliament only for trunk roads. They are his roads and he is 100 per cent. responsible for their maintenance.
Other roads in the country called classified roads are the responsibility of and are owned by the local highway authorities. We contribute to their maintenance and minor improvement expenses on varying scales, but they are local authority roads. Barton Bridge is one of them. This is therefore not a matter for my right hon. Friend to decide.
On the information which I have, and bearing in mind the many claims which we have on our limited funds for road improvements in this country, I am a little doubtful whether it will be possible to build a new bridge of the kind asked for in this debate for some time to come. We must remember that we already have an expensive scheme in building the high level bridge, and we think that that bridge will contribute some improvement at least—I put it no higher than that—for the traffic at present using Barton Swing Bridge. We shall have to see how it turns out, and whether the calculations and estimates prepared by the traffic engineers employed by our Ministry and by the county council responsible are found to be correct.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
This is an interesting argument about the line of Barton Bridge not being on the line of a trunk road. I accept that, for I am very familiar with the locations. But what of the line of the high level bridge? This is a road which has been constructed to link A.56, which is the Manchester—Chester Road, with A.6, which is the main north-south road up the west coast of England. Surely the argument which the Minister is adducing for not accepting responsibility for the one bridge also applies to the road which is being constructed to link A.56 with A.6.
§ Mr. Hay
I think that the hon. Member has misunderstood my argument. I said that my right hon. Friend cannot at the moment be responsible for the roads in the neighbourhood of Weaste, where we are being asked to build a bridge. In the nature of things, therefore, he cannot of his own volition decide to build a bridge at Weaste. This is a matter for the local highways authority to put forward.
In the light of developments we will keep under very close review the need for any further bridges in this area. When I speak of further developments I mean specifically the experience which we shall have through the diversion of some traffic to the high level bridge and the general development which is scheduled to take place in this area and which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South—the housing development and the industrial development of Trafford Park Estate.
If the highways authorities in the area make a proposal to us we will, of course, consider it. I cannot forecast what our decision would be upon it, and the House would not expect me to give such a decision tonight, but we will certainly look at any proposal with this debate in mind and will bear in mind the points which have been so admirably made by the many hon. Members who have spoken.
May I come to the question whether it is possible to make some improvements in the arrangements for swinging the existing bridge? As the House has been told by a number of hon. Members, this question is governed by the Manchester Ship Canal Act, 1855. Section 33 contains a proviso which requires the bridge to be 1421 kept closed at all times except when it is required to be open for the passage of vessels. It adds that it shall at such tines he kept open only for as long as shall be "reasonably necessary" for such passage, and it is the question of what is "reasonably necessary" which is so much in dispute between the Canal Company and the standing committee of which, I think, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann) is chairman. Section 126, on the other hand, concerns the Barton Bridge more specifically, and this Section makes it a statutory offence to keep the bridge open for longer than ten minutes.
In the light of this statutory background, over the years various arrangements have been reached between the Company, on the one hand, and the various local interests, on the other hand. I am told that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South has been very active in this matter since as long ago as 1936 and has done a great deal to try to bring these arrangements about.
The current arrangement dates from 1951. Under this the bridge is to be kept closed for what I believed, before the debate began, were eight periods on week-days, amounting to a total of two hours and forty-two minutes. I gather twat there is some dispute whether the statement of the Promoters on this point is quite correct. In addition, there are two periods on Saturdays amounting to thirty-five minutes in all and two periods on Sundays amounting to thirty minutes.
But there is a proviso in the arrangement that, irrespective of these restricted periods when the bridge must be kept closed, the bridge can be opened at any time for the passage of ocean-going Vessels. As several hon. Members have explained, Manchester docks thrive upon the large ocean-going vessels. That was one raison d'être for the canal—one reason for the Manchester Ship Canal being built.
I am glad to come to this point, because to my mind it shows how difficult it is to strike a balance in these matters. On the one hand, we have the very pressing needs of vehicles and foot traffic over Barton Swing Bridge; on the other, we have the quite legitimate and highly important needs of shipping which wants to use the docks at Manchester. This is not a tidal canal in the sense that 1422 every ship must conform to the tides, but I am advised that the ships have to catch the tide at the estuary of the Mersey, and that adds to the complications and difficulties.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells rightly emphasised the importance to our export trade of the quick turn-round of ships. At a time when the shipping industry is facing so many difficulties, we want to be rather careful not to place additional impediments in its way. The hon. Member for Ardwick rightly stressed the importance of shipping to the great city to which he is so rightly proud to belong. None of us in the House would wish to do anything to hinder the continued development of that city. These are the considerations which we have in mind and this is the problem which we have to face.
I now come to the future position. I read for the first time today, as I think most hon. Members did, what the Company said in paragraph 6 of the statement in support of the Bill. It has already been read, so I will not read it again. The hon. Member for Eccles said that this wording means nothing. Although I am a lawyer, I am always inclined to believe that words mean what they say. What these words say, as I understand them, is that for the next six months there will be no change in the present arrangements for the opening of the bridge, but that they will be reviewed, not just by the company itself, but by the standing committee, in the light of the experience which we get from the movement of traffic on the new high level bridge.
§ Mr. Proctor
In my view, the paragraph is specifically designed to keep the power in the hands of the Canal Company to do just what it likes. The standing committee will not have to sanction it. The power will rest with the Canal Company to make such alterations as it desires. I would have been impressed if it was laid down that no alteration should be made without the company's consent. The paragraph is carefully worded. Mr. Lloyd George was an expert on this kind of thing. When one has something and tries to catch hold of it one finds that it is not there.
§ Mr. Hay
In those circumstances, I must read paragraph 6. It states:After the new high level bridge is opened for traffic the Company will continue to operate the present arrangements at Barton for not less than six months until the Standing Committee referred to in paragraph 4 have had time to review the traffic arrangements in the light of experience of the new high level bridge.The hon. Member may see some dark design in that. I do not. I think that it is straight-forward. According to the information which I have to answer this debate, what I have said is the position.
§ Mr. Proctor
It was not the company's intention to make any alteration originally, but that the same procedure should be followed for three months. There is no guarantee than any change will have to have the sanction of anyone besides the company.
§ Mr. Hay
The hon. Member may be very pessimistic. I do not think that his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale is so pessimistic. We will just have to see.
It has been suggested in the debate that somehow the Minister of Transport should intervene in this matter and call all the parties together to see if some more permanent arrangement could be hammered out. Frankly, I do not think that that is necessary at this stage. The hon. Member for Rochdale showed the competence and wide nature of the experience of the committee Which he heads and I believe that this is a matter for local decision, We in the Ministry of Transport stand ready to give any advice or assistance we can if it is genuinely required. In short, we shall take a benevolent interest in what happens about the future arrangements for the opening of the bridge.
In the moment or two which remain before ten o'clock may I say—
§ Mr. Hay
I know, but I have reason to believe that the House as a whole wants to proceed with the business which was interrupted at seven o'clock. It may be that my speech has not given hon. Members opposite 100 per cent. satisfaction, but I hope that it has not been too disappointing.
1424 We are not indifferent to the needs of this very important area. The fact alone that we are building the high level bridge, or contributing to the building of it, shows that we are interested. We will certainly give what help we can. I cannot promise tonight that we will build a new bridge to replace the old swing bridge. I will, however, promise, first, to consider very carefully any proposal which the highway authorities—
§ it being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Proceedings on any Private Business set down for consideration at Seven o'clock this evening by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]
§ Question again proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ Mr. Hay
I was saying that I promise to consider carefully any proposal which is put to us by the local highway authorities. Secondly, I will bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government the remarks which have been made in this debate about the pollution of the canal. Thirdly, we stand ready to help the company and the local authorities to solve the problems of opening the present bridge if our help is asked for. I hope, therefore, that with these assurances, hon. Members opposite who have tabled the Amendment will decide to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Proctor
Will the hon. Gentleman consider my suggestion that an inquiry might be held into all these problems so that we can have expert advice concerning the bridges and all the other matters?
§ Mr. Hay
I remember the hon. Member making that suggestion. I thought at the time that this was probably not the sort of case in which an inquiry of the kind he had in mind would help us. The purpose of an inquiry, particularly if conducted by a committee, is usually to find out the facts. There is comparatively little dispute, I understand, about the facts. What is wanted is action of a certain kind. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] It may be for the Government or it may be for the local authorities 1425 to take that kind of action, but it is not something upon which we need an inquiry.
§ Mr. Proctor
It has been suggested that several more bridges are required. A committee which considered the matter and reported would, I hope, come to the conclusion that it is necessary. To do nothing after this debate seems to me to be wrong.
§ Mr. Hay
I hope that it will not be the case that nothing is done. I hope that this debate has helped to clear the air—figuratively speaking, if not in fact—and that we shall all know a little more about the situation. I have certainly learned a great deal. I have seen the Barton Bridge, both the high level and the swing bridge, on a visit to the area, but I now know much more about it. I will certainly interest myself in it, as my predecessors have done.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Is it in cider now, Mr. Speaker, to return to the earlier question of disarmament?
§ Mr. Speaker
Not quite yet, because we have Questions to deal with concern- 1426 ing the Manchester Ship Canal Bill. I did not know the desires of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), whether he now desires his Amendment to be put or whether he wishes to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Having had the explanation that the Minister has given with regard to the main points that were made, the undertaking that he has given to keep a watchful eye on the effects of the new bridge with regard to relieving the old bridge and his undertaking about watching the position as housing development takes place in the Westhoughton and Wigan areas, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill considered accordingly.
§ Standing Order 205 (Notice of third reading) suspended; Bill to be read the.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.