§ Moved, That Standing Order No. 143 be dispensed with, and that the Bill be now read 3a; agreed to: Bill read 3a accordingly, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 29:
§ Power to use Trailer and Coupled Carriages.
§ 29.—(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any Act Order by-law or regulation the Council may provide maintain work and use trailer carriages and with the consent of the Board of Trade coupled carriages on such portions of any tramways worked by the Council (a) south of the River Thames (b) on the Victoria Embankment and Vauxhall Bridge Road and Beaufort Street up to King's Road Chelsea and (c) over Westminster Blackfriars Vauxhall and Battersea Bridges respectively and at such times as the Board of Trade may approve. Provided that the Council shall not in exercising the powers in 774 this section contained obstruct or interfere with the free passage of persons or vehicles to or from the entrances to or exits from the stations of any railway company and trailer carriages or coupled carriages shall not without the consent of such company be stopped for the distance thereon extending in front of the said entrances or exits and for a length of ten yards at each end of such entrance except only for so long as shall be reasonably necessary for the purposes of discharging and taking up passengers.
§ (2)The trailer carriages and coupled carriages used by the Council under the provisions of this section shall be fitted with such brakes and safety appliances as the Board of Trade may approve and no trailer carriage or coupled carriage shall be used by the Council of a design not approved by the Board of Trade for the purpose.
§ (3) Except so far as the Board of Trade may otherwise allow the number of carriages or vehicles which may be used or run attached together in each case shall not exceed two.
My Lords, I move an Amendment in subsection (1) of Clause 29, after the word "approve" ["Board of Trade may approve"], to insert "and for such periods and on such terms and conditions as may be expressed in such approval and the Board of Trade may revoke any such approval." The object of this Amendment is to strengthen the hands of the Board of Trade and give them power of control over the working of this clause. As your Lordships know, there has been a certain amount of opposition to the use of trailer cars in London. This is practically in the nature of an experiment. These powers are asked for by the London County Council owing to the enormous increase of tramway traffic in London during the last five years. The number of passengers carried has now reached a total of 533,000,000 per annum. A great many of the passengers using the tramcars make use of them at two periods of the day—early in the morning and again in the evening—thereby causing a great rush of traffic at these times. It is in order to meet this congestion that the London County Council now seek power under this clause to run trailer cars.
This clause has been considered by two Parliamentary Committees. It was passed unanimously by the House of Commons Committee, and was also passed by the House of Lords Committee restricting it to certain districts and certain roads. The Board of Trade were absolutely satisfied that these trailer cars could be worked and would not be detrimental to the public. At the first inquiry before the House of Commons Committee the motor omnibus companies were represented, but before the 775 House of Lords Committee they were found to have no locus standi. It is not necessary for me to say much about their opposition, as they are competing authorities and purely commercial concerns. The advantage of trailer cars is that by using them you reduce the units of traffic. One of the greatest causes of congestion of traffic and danger to the public is the large number of units of traffic using the roads. By the use of a trailer the seating capacity is doubled, and at the same time there is only one unit of traffic. In the majority of cases of accidents it is generally the front of the vehicle that causes the accident. Therefore by having a trailer attached to the tramcar while doubling the seating capacity you do not increase the risk of accidents. Further, there is no danger of other traffic coming between the tramcar and the trailer, as the space between is amply protected. I would point out the difference between a tram with a trailer attached and two trams one following the other. In the latter case there is nothing to prevent faster traffic coming in between, which very often causes dangerous accidents.
Trailer traffic is not a new institution. It is used in Paris, Berlin, Pittsburg, Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Milan, Sydney, Melbourne, and in other parts of the world. The London County Council went to a great deal of trouble in collecting evidence as to the working of these trailers. All the evidence of experts was that the use of trailers relieved congestion because passengers were able to leave and enter quicker, inasmuch as with a trailer there are three exits and therefore less confusion; and as regards the block at places where traffic is held up, it stands to reason that a tramcar with a trailer attached takes very little longer to cross than a single tramcar. I would instance the case of the tunnel on the Thames Embankment. To enable tramcars to enter that tunnel the whole of the traffic going both ways has to be held up, whereas with a tramcar using a trailer you would get double the number of passengers through each time the traffic was held up. These trailers would be used during the busy parts of the day and discontinued during the slacker times. They could also be made use of in times of stress when there is a great rush. I instance the recent Coal Strike, when special powers were given to permit overcrowding in tramcars. Your Lordships will agree that that is not a thing to be encouraged. By 776 having trailers attached at such times to all cars you would do away with overcrowding.
A great deal of apprehension has been expressed with regard to the danger to the public, but I think your Lordships will agree that there is less danger with one unit of traffic than with two. In the first six months of this year the figure of fatal accidents in London as regards motor 'buses was one per thirty-five; as regards tramcars, one per 221. Economy in working is another object which the London County Council has in making this experiment in regard to trailers. At the present moment some £12,000,000 of the London ratepayers' money has been sunk in tramways, so that the matter is one of great interest to the ratepayers. By the use of trailers there would be a saving in the wage bill, as a tramcar with a trailer would only require one driver. There would also be a saving in electrical equipment and also in depot accommodation, as trailers would not require such a costly depot as ordinary tramcars, and again their original cost is about one-half that of a fully equipped tramcar. The other objectors were the Police, but I think it was admitted before the Committee that the Police witness had never seen trailer cars working. Therefore his opinion as to their danger did not carry very great weight, whereas the Board of Trade have licensed trailers and are acquainted with their working in other cities of Great Britain. Fear of delay at the termini was another reason given for the Police objection. There are several methods of dealing with the cars at the different termini, and before any particular system was adopted we should have to obtain the sanction of the Board of Trade and the question of which system of control should be used at the different termini would be thoroughly gone into.
I would like to point out to your Lordships that none of the twenty-nine highway authorities in London appeared before either Committee to raise any objection to the running of these trailers. Trailers are being used to a large extent both by motor and steam vehicles, and I have here a photograph of a trailer at present in use in London of very much larger dimensions than any trailer which we propose to use on the London tramways. Another point is that it is very much safer for trailers to be used on recognised roads and on fixed lines. By the Amendment which I have 777 put on the Paper the Board of Trade are given ample power to control or revoke the running of these trailer cars. The London tramway authority have given a great deal of time and thought to solving the difficulty of dealing with the rashes of traffic to which I have referred, and after collecting evidence from all parts of the world they have come to the conclusion that the problem can best be met in this way. They are of opinion that trailers will accelerate traffic, relieve congestion, and be as safe to the public as any vehicle moving on the roads can be. The only alternative to using trailers would be to put on extra tramcars, and all the objections brought forward to trailer cars apply with much greater force to having a larger number of tramcars running, because the danger to the public with separate units is naturally increased. Therefore I ask your Lordships, in the interests of the public, to accept my Amendment.
Clause 29, line 9, after ("approve") insert, ("and for such periods and on such terms and conditions as may be expressed in such approval and the Board of Trade may revoke any such approval").—(Lord Greville.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, I do not desire to enter into the merits of this question for reasons which I shall state in a few sentences, but more especially as I fancy the merits will be probably gone into at greater length when we come to the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and in the speech which I hope will follow his from the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, who was Chairman of the Committee which heard this case. What: I desire at once to point out to your Lordships is this, that this case has been fully heard—with perhaps one' exception, to which my noble friend Lord Montagu will no doubt draw attention—by two Committees, a Committee of the House of Commons and a Committee of your Lordships' House, and they decided to allow an experiment. I will not put it higher than that, because what they have allowed falls very far short of the clause as it originally stood when the Bill was first introduced. They decided that sonic experiment is necessary to deal with what the London County Council tell us is the very exceptional state of traffic at what are known technically as the rush hours in the morning and in the evening. These two Committees 778 accepted the view of the London County Council that something must he done; and I desire to support the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Greville for the reason that it carries out—and I think the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, will agree with me—more clearly than the clause does as it at present stands what the Committees desired should be carried out when they gave their decision. The clause as it stands on the Paper now does not carry out the decision to this extent, that. I do not think it makes it absolutely clear that the Board of Trade are to have power to watch this experiment and to stop it in particular cases where they think it amounts either to a failure or to an injury to either parties. I have been able to see the representatives of the London County Council since the Bill was referred to the Committee of your Lordships' House, and this Amendment is the result of negotiation and the genuine desire of the London County Council to carry out the decision of the Committee before whom they appeared Admitted that this is an experiment, I think your Lordships will be wise to allow it to be, carried out subject to the constant supervision of the Board of Trade, which supervision would be assured if the words of my noble friend are added to the clause. I need not remind your Lordships that the Board of Trade are responsible to Parliament, and that if they do—and we have no reason to anticipate that they will—neglect their duties under this clause they will be liable to the pressure which can be brought on a public Department by Parliament. But there is another safeguard. The London County Council are not a quiescent body from a Parliamentary point of view. They come before Parliament annually and generally have a Tramway Bill on the stocks, and if as a result of strongly formed public opinion it is found that this clause acts injuriously to the public as a whole or to large individual interests, nothing will be easier than for Parliament to repeal the clause. They will have almost annual opportunities of doing so. I think, therefore, your Lordships will be wise to allow this experiment. Consequently I desire to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Greville, and if your Lordships in your wisdom think fit to agree to that Amendment. I shall recommend the House to maintain the clause as it will then stand and allow the Bill to pass.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.779
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name, which is to leave out Clause 29. I listened with interest to the speech of Lord Greville, and I admit frankly that he spoke with moderation and put the County Council's case forward in an attractive manner. I am not able, however, to agree with all the figures he gave to the House or with the conclusions which he drew. The Amendment which Lord Greville moved and winch the House has just adopted is, I think, a step in the right direction, and even if your Lordships do not agree to delete the clause altogether I shall feel that my efforts have not been in vain, for if I had not brought the matter to the notice of the House it is probable that the clause would have slipped through without the further Amendment which has just been agreed to.
My reason for calling your Lordships' attention to the matter at this late stage of the Bill I can explain in a few words. When the Bill was before the House of Commons Committee a good deal of evidence was heard on both sides. It happened that those who were moving on behalf of other users of the roads were not prepared, for reasons which I do not know, to offer their case to the House of Commons Committee, but they were prepared to offer a complete case to the Committee of this House. When they got here, however, it was found that, owing to a curiously strict reading of the Standing Orders, they were debarred from putting forward their laboriously gathered evidence and making, as they thought would be possible, a good case before the Committee. Further, they were consequently unable to cross-examine the witnesses put forward by the promoters. The result is that I find myself now, on the Third Reading of the Bill, obliged to call the attention of the House to this matter. There is a Motion on the Paper of your Lordships' House to-day to amend the Standing Orders of the House in such a way as would allow the Roads Improvement Association, which I represent to-day, to be heard in the future. That is a tacit admission that it would have been much better had they been able to be heard when the Committee of your 'Lordships' House were considering this Bill.
I am the last person to oppose an extension of traffic facilities for London. I am no great anti-tramcar advocate. All forms of locomotion are necessary in London, and 780 I acknowledge that the London County Council have done excellent work for many years past in helping to convey the population to and from their work. But it must not be thought that the London County Council are the chief conveyers of the immense amount of passenger traffic in this metropolis. It may interest your Lordships to know that, though 533,000,000 passengers were conveyed last year on the London County Council tramways, 30,000,000 in excess of that number—namely, 563,000,000—were conveyed by motor' buses and other forms of public conveyance. Therefore the London County Council have no better claim as a traffic conveying authority to be heard than private individuals concerned in this matter. The difficulty, as Lord Greville said, arises owing to the heavy traffic in the mornings and in the evenings. Every one who has watched the traffic of London knows that during the greater part of the day the tramcars and omnibuses are nearly empty. Therefore this request on the part of the Council is merely to deal with the "peak load" during the hours from eight to ten o'clock in the morning and from five to seven o'clock in the evening. Had the Committee thought wise to restrict the use of trailers to these hour I should have been loth to oppose the clause. I think it would have been a perfectly reasonable request. But no such provision exists in the Bill, and as it stands at present trailers and coupled ears may be run at any time during, the twenty-four hours, and they will be run at times when I maintain there is ample accommodation under the existing system.
The noble Lord also assumed, on behalf of the London County Council, that the tramway system was going to be a permanent one. I think he rather left out of consideration the fact that the number of passengers carried on the County Council tramways has already dropped. For the first six months of this year they dropped one per cent. as compared with the corresponding period of last year. And the £13,000,000 of the ratepayers' money sunk in these tramways only earned a net profit of £220,000 for the year. Motor 'bus competition is very severe and is increasing rapidly, and before long the County Council's trains will be a non-paying concern. Speaking as a London ratepayer I should, of course, greatly regret this; but the actual state of affairs does not encourage us very much to regard the County Council tram- 781 ways as being of a very permanent nature so far as the future is concerned.
Now I come to the evidence that was given before the Committee. I think it is a serious thing to override the opinion of the Police in this matter. Both the Assistant Commissioner and the Inspector of Public Service Vehicles are strongly of opinion that the use of trailers and coupled cars on the tramways will be prejudicial to the management of traffic in London and will also be dangerous. I maintain that these two gentlemen are great experts on the question. They have spent their lives in studying it, and it is a serious thing for us or for the Committee to say about their evidence that it is not worthy of much attention. When I was a member of the House of Commons I sat on a number of Highway and Traffic Committees, and on those occasions great attention was always paid to the Police point of view. Until we get a Traffic Authority for London, a consummation much to be desired, the Police are the only responsible body for the management of the traffic, and that being so I think it is very important to give their views fall weight. What do they say They state that, not only in the matter of terminal arrangements but in the matter of the actual length of the tramcar and trailer, they entertain very grave objection to this clause. The length of the coupled cars will be seventy feet. To give your Lordships an idea of what this means I took the trouble to measure the Chamber in which we are now sitting, and I find that two tramcar s would reach from the back of the Throne to the railings which separate members of the other House from your Lordships' august body. These cars would be rather wider than the Table at which the Clerks sit, and their total weight would be forty-four tons. These cars with trailers attached are really railway trains. I will deal later on with the weight question, which is a serious one in itself.
It so happens that I have been away for the past eleven weeks in America and Canada, inspecting and reporting on the very sort of question presented by this Bill. I visited sixteen of the principal cities in the States and in Canada, and went very carefully into their systems of street railways. I found that the tendency everywhere was to limit the privileges of street railways, and to, if possible, introduce other forms of vehicles. I found that where trailers and coupled cars had been allowed to be run there was a tendency to 782 compel the street tramway companies to give up this practice on the ground of obstruction to traffic. The president of the largest tramway company in New York told me that the Police there would not think of allowing trailer cars to run, and New York is the only city where the traffic is at all comparable to that of London. Therefore when the noble Lord mentioned Pittsburg and other cities as allowing trailer cars to be used, I can only tell him that the present tendency is all against these huge trains being run on street railways.
I have read through a good deal of the evidence that was given before the Committee of your Lordships' House on this Bill, and I find in it statements which, had they been subjected to cross-examination, could not possibly have stood. One witness was described as the "general manager of the tramways undertakings in Paris." There is absolutely no such concern. When I read those words I took the trouble to find out what were the tramway companies in Paris. There are in Paris three chief companies, with 124, 53, and 81 miles respectively of route, some running out through the fortifications, some into the country, and some almost entirely in the City of Paris itself. But there is no gentleman entitled to speak for the whole of the tramways of Paris. Nor can anybody who has been in Paris maintain that the traffic conditions there are in any way comparable to those of London. London is a proposition by itself. It has quite unique problems and a far greater density of traffic and far greater difficulties of management, and any parallel that can be drawn from another city, though helpful, is to my mind not at all complete. I notice that there are towns in Great Britain which used to have the power—in fact, they possess it to-day—to run trailers but have abandoned them. Take Leeds. Leeds has had the power for six years to run trailers, but the system was abandoned there for the reason that it did not pay. I venture to say we ought to have more experience before we authorise the running of these trailers in London. Moreover, if you are going to allow the London County Council to run trailers you must in justice allow other tramway companies in London to run them. How can you allow the London County Council to run trailers and couple their cars together and not allow the same privilege to other tramway companies which operate in the Metropolis?
783 The decision of the Committee itself I think to a certain extent proves my case. The Committee have limited the London County Council to the territory South of the Thames. I congratulate the Committee on their wisdom. Yet on the South side of the Thames, at the ends of the bridges in particular, are some of the most congested spots in the whole of London, and these are exactly the spots at which these seventy-feet long trains—and if there are two meeting their length will Le 140 feet—will block every street which crosses the main road. Whether that is wise to allow your Lordships will decide, but I for one cannot help thinking that it is an experiment exceedingly hazardous and rash to allow. Then are you going to allow motor-'buses to have trailers? If the London County Council trams are to have trailers, why not the motor-'buses? Then are you going to allow trade vehicles to have trailers? If you once admit the trailer system it seems to me that you will have to extend it indefinitely. There is yet another point While motor-'buses are confined to a speed of twelve miles an hour these street trains will be allowed to go at sixteen miles an hour.
Another grave question is that of Westminster Bridge. It may be news to your Lordships that the maximum weight of any vehicle allowed over Westminster Bridge, according to the by-laws of the London County Council themselves, is fifteen tons. It was never anticipated when Westminster Bridge was built, between 1857 and 1863, that concentrated and heavy loads would ever pass over it. Westminster Bridge is of peculiar construction. It is built of girders which are partly wrought iron and partly cast iron, the object being to give it a good appearance and to diminish the gradient at each end of the bridge. The County Council were at one time so concerned about the bridge that they fixed a limit of two and a-half tons per wheel, for vehicles crossing it, but last year the restrictions as to the load per wheel disappeared. The limit of fifteen tons for vehicles, however, remains. Now while fifteen tons is the maximum allowed by the London County Council's by-law for traffic over Westminster Bridge, the County Council's tramcars each weigh twenty-two tons, and under this clause if it is passed you may have two coupled tramcars going in the reverse direction—that is eighty-eight tons of rolling weight on 784 the crowns of the arches of Westminster Bridge. I am assured by competent engineers that that weight is a dangerous one. If the London County Council are to be allowed to break their own by-law and to run weights over Westminster Bridge of eighty-eight tons I think it is a very serious abuse of the by-laws, and they will have to alter the by-laws or else stultify themselves in the eyes of the public. These and other points were not before the Committee of your Lordships' House which considered this Bill owing to the unfortunate position of the Standing Orders.
I believe I have put an unanswerable case for the rejection of this clause; but in the event of the clause not being struck out I accept with thankfulness Lord Greville's Amendment to which your Lordships have to-day agreed, and which will at any rate reserve to the Board of Trade full power in the matter. Still I venture to think that the clause even as it stands now is very ambiguous and does not at all convey clearly that the Board of Trade are to have complete control in the matter. If the words "with the consent of the Board of Trade" were put in after the word "may" ["the Council may"] at the beginning of the clause, that I think would cover the point. But at present the clause reads that "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any Act, Order, by-law, or regulation, the Council may provide, maintain, work, and use trailer carriages, and, with the consent of the Board of Trade, coupled carriages." I maintain that that wording is very ambiguous, and that both from an editorial point of view and from the point of view of making the clause perfectly clear the words "with the consent of the Board of Trade" ought to come after the word "may." Surely what is meant by the clause is that the consent of the Board of Trade must be obtained both in the case of trailers and coupled carriages. I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 29.—(Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF BATH
My Lords, as I was Chairman of the Committee of your Lordships' House which considered this Bill, I ought, perhaps, to put the House in possession of what occurred in the Committee and the points which they 785 considered. In regard to the question of locus standi we practically had no option. But I must say that if an association like the one mentioned by the noble Lord, admirable though it is, is to be admitted in opposition to measures of this kind I do not know where Committees will be able to draw the line with regard to locus standi. It is perfectly true that, in consequence of the decision with regard to the locus standi of the association which the noble Lord represents, the opposition to this clause and other clauses was limited, but we did have the advantage of all the Police evidence, and we also had the privilege of hearing a representative of the Board of Trade. The two Departments did not look on this question at all from the same point of view. Personally I must say I was not satisfied that there would be any increase of danger from the use of trailer ears. I think it must be obvious that if you couple two cars closely together there is one element of danger removed which would be present if you had those same cars travelling at a short interval one behind the other.
No doubt in some ways there probably may be inconvenience in dealing with the traffic,; but we had also to consider the points which were put before the House earlier by my noble friend Lord Greville and which were placed before us with very great force by the London County Council. I refer to the heavy traffic at certain hours in the morning and in the evening and the necessity of properly and economically dealing with it. The Committee, after careful consideration, felt that this was to be an experiment. We also felt that it was one which ought to be tried and given a chance of proving its efficiency or the reverse. We were impressed with the evidence of opposition with regard to dead ends. There is no doubt that North of the Thames the tramways come down to a number of dead ends into crowded parts of London, and it was for that reason that we limited these trailers to the districts South of the Thames, giving access over Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges in order that they may get the circular routes. We allowed them also to go over other bridges, one going to Victoria and another one lower down in Chelsea. It was impressed upon us that these trailers are not meant to run all day. The object of the County Council is by means of the trailers to deal with the crowded traffic in the morning and in the evening, but in the middle of the 786 day the trailers will be placed in their depôts. Although the Roads Improvement Association had no locus standi before our Committee, no more had the omnibus companies owing to the omission of a clause from their petition. But it is important to remember that there was no opposition from any of the people who would be affected locally; and while it is perfectly true that the London County Council witnesses were not cross-examined from the point of view of opposition, I can assure the House that their evidence was most carefully scrutinised and questioned by all the members of the Committee, and I think we were able, if I may use the phrase, to put them through their facings almost as well as it might have been done professionally. There were two matters alluded to by Lord Montagu on which I would only say a word. The question of the weight on Westminster Bridge was not before us. I understand that that is a domestic matter which concerns the London County Council.
§ THE MARQUESS OF BATH
The London County Council are the responsible body, and I presume that if what my noble friend says is correct they will have either to strengthen the bridge or obtain powers to run a heavier load over it if their by-laws are made under Parliamentary powers. In any case I presume that the by-laws made by this authority would require the-sanction of a Government Department. My noble friend stated that a French gentleman who was called as a witness described himself as the "general manager of the tramways undertakings in Paris." My recollection does not exactly bear that out. My recollection is that he was described as the assistant to the general manager, and that he was not the chief official himself.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
I have the evidence here. The witness states that he is general manager of the tramways undertakings in Paris. There is no such body.
§ THE MARQUESS OF BATH
As I say, that was not my recollection. My recollection was that he described himself as assistant to the general manager of a 787 particular set of tramways in Paris. To return to the proposal contained in this clause. I repeat that it is admittedly an experiment. The House has to-day inserted a proviso which gives the Board of Trade ample power, not only to license but to revoke its licence, and I respectfully urge upon your Lordships that this is an experiment which in view of what is done in other towns in this country and also on the Continent should be permitted if a body like the London County Council make such a point of it. I would venture to make one suggestion. It is that possibly the objections which my noble friend Lord Montagu has raised would be to a large extent removed if the fifty-four yards' limit between tramcars following one another was strictly enforced by the Police. It appeared from the evidence given by the inspectors that that provision is not at present strictly enforced. I would urge that having given the powers they have to the Board of Trade the House may very well pass the clause as it now stands and allow what is an experiment but nothing more than an experiment.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, the noble Lord who has moved the rejection of this clause has, if I may say so, raised a whole succession of bogies. He has virtually told your Lordships that Westminster Bridge may fall through, that we are all going to be run over, and that all sorts of horrors are likely to occur in consequence of this proposal. The London County Council is an elected body and I put it to the House, Is it likely, in view of that fact, which necessarily they have to bear in mind, that they are going to take enormous risks and do things that are unpopular and unnecessary? The Roads Improvement Association is apparently very much troubled over the question of trailers. I would remind Lord Montagu that trailers are allowed in the case of other vehicles in the streets of London. If he will come and stand in the road in which I live he will see a considerable number of motor lorries with carts attached behind, and the officials of the London County Council produced photographs showing some of these vehicles, which were seventy-four and more feet in length.
§ EARL STANHOPE
It may be limited to that extent, but the speed at which they travel over the roads in London is considerably more. It has been settled that this is an experiment. The London County Council are quite prepared to accept it as such. But how in the world are they going to put this experiment to proof unless they are allowed to exercise this clause? Lord Montagu said that the London County Council have not yet sufficient experience to undertake this work. How are they to get that experience if they are not allowed this power? The noble Lord stated that the problem in London was an entirely different one from that in any other city in the world. Therefore if we are going to get any valuable experience obviously these trailers have to be tried in London. As to the question of weight, under this clause the Board of Trade have power to refuse to sanction any type of trailer car that the London County Council may put forward. Therefore it is impossible to lay down hard and fast any pledge in this House as to what type of trailer will be employed or what the weight will be, but it is calculated that the weight will not be two-thirds that of an ordinary tramcar and probably it will be only about one-half. With regard to the question of Westminster Bridge, the noble Lord gave a description to the House of the extreme length of these trains—as he called them, Well, if they should be of the length which he suggested the weight would necessarily be distributed over a considerable length of the bridge and that would largely affect the question of stability. The question for this Rouse to decide is an exceedingly simple one—namely, whether there are to be more tramcars or whether trailers are to be allowed to be used. The noble Lord said that the traffic on the London County Council tramways had dropped. It has done nothing of the kind. The figures for 1909–10 were 451,500,000 passengers in 1911–12 the figures were 533,500,000. That shows an advance of very little short of 100,000,000 passengers.
§ EARL STANHOPE
We have had considerable disturbances throughout London of various kinds during that time and naturally the traffic returns have been affected, but I should be very much surprised if it is found that the traffic has 789 dropped over the whole of the twelve months. This clause has been considered by Committees in both Houses of Parliament, and there is power in it for a great Government Department to supervise the whole experiment and to veto it at any moment they choose. Therefore it does seem a little unreasonable to say that the public are not going to be sufficiently safeguarded. As I remarked before, the London County Council are an elected body and it is hardly likely that they would carry on an unpopular and unnecessary experiment and waste the ratepayers' money in running trailers which were not required, thus rousing up the opposition of the public, who will be able to decide whether they approve or not of the Council's policy in only a few months' time.
I notice that Lord Montagu has a further Amendment on the Paper. It is, in the event of this Amendment not being carried, to insert a new clause providing that trailers should only be tried for a year from the passing of this Bill, and that then the London County Council should have to return to both Houses of Parliament for further powers. On that I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he imagines that trailer cars can be picked up in the streets. We have to make our trailer cars and, of course, we have not begun to make them yet for the simple reason that we have not acquired powers from Parliament to do so. When this Bill receives the Royal Assent the Highways Committee of the County Council will begin the work of making these trailer cars, but I doubt whether we shall have a single one running on the streets this year; and if we have to come back and ask for new powers next year the Highways Committee will not do anything so silly as to commence making trailers now. The London County Council have a sinking fund which enables the cost of a car to be paid off by the time it is worn out.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Twelve years, I think; but it may be more. At any rate the cars will last considerably more than a few months, and therefore if the noble Lord's second Amendment is carried trailer cars will not be used in London at all.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I had hoped that before the discussion reached this stage some representative of the Board of Trade would have risen from the Bench opposite to tell us how that Department regards the proposal before the House. I am not quite sure whether we enjoy the advantage of having a representative of the Board of Trade at all under the present arrangement. But what I wished to say was this. I think those of us who have listened to this debate must have remained under the impression that my noble friend Lord Montagu was fully justified in calling the attention of the House to this clause. It is a new provision and one of great importance. It is a provision which must inevitably have a considerable effect either advantageous or disadvantageous on the traffic of London. It is objected to—that has not been contradicted—by the Police authorities, and it is also objected to by a considerable number of persons interested in the use of the public thoroughfares, who unfortunately, for a technical reason, did not have an opportunity of expressing their views before the House of Lords Committee. And there is also this point about it, that, as was suggested by my noble friend, this concession, if made to the London County Council, must inevitably open a very wide door through which other companies interested in tramcar traffic will desire to pass. There are, however, considerations which I think are entitled to great weight till the other side. This concession is very urgently demanded by the London County Council, and they demand it upon the ground that unless it is made it will be impossible for them to deal with the tremendous congestion of traffic which we know takes place at certain points and at particular times of the day. That view prevailed with the Committee of the House of Commons and also with the Committee of your Lordships' House, and I own that I am greatly swayed by the advice of the Lord Chairman when he suggests to us that the finding of those two Committees ought not to be lightly set on one side by your Lordships' House. Then I am again reassured by another consideration. This clause certainly does not give the London County Council anything like a free hand in this matter. It positively bristles with provisions under which the authority of the Board of Trade may be invoked for a number of purposes—for deciding the, route to be followed by these cars, for deciding what safety appliances 791 should be used by them, and for deciding what their design shall be. And then this evening, on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Greville, we have added a still further safeguard under which the Board of Trade will be able to determine the period for which the concession shall be allowed, the terms and conditions under which it shall be allowed, and under which the Board of Trade will be in a position to withdraw its approval if it thinks that the concession is abused. I think that with those safeguards we may very fairly regard this concession as an experimental one, and as an experiment which ought in all the circumstances to be tried. Therefore I venture to suggest to my noble friend Lord Montagu, who, I think, may fairly urge that but for his intervention we might possibly not have had the Amendment which has now been inserted in the clause, that he should be content with that Amendment and should not put the House to the trouble of a Division.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, after the remarks of the noble Marquess perhaps I owe it to the House to state that His Majesty's Government were not unmindful of this matter coming before the House to-night, and I was instructed on behalf of two Departments, both of which take an interest in the Bill, to watch the proceedings. On this occasion I am glad to think that His Majesty's Government are able to reinforce the appeal which has just been made by the noble Marquess opposite. We feel that your Lordships may safely pass the clause now under consideration, especially in view of the Amendment which has been inserted to-day on the motion of Lord Greville. As your Lordships know, when there is any question of dispute in a matter of this kind negotiations of an informal character always take place, and the parties to those negotiations are generally good enough to take the Government Department into consultation. We have in this case in harmony together the London County Council, the Lord Chairman, two Committees (one of this House and the other of the House of Commons), the Board of Trade, the Home Office, and the Police, and all these are confident that the passing of the clause in the form in which it Dow is cannot possibly cause any danger to anybody.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
After what has been said by the noble Earl who 792 has just spoken and by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition I withdraw my Amendment. At the same time I wish once more to say that I think this is an experiment of a hazardous nature. I can hardly agree with Lord Beauchamp in his statement that the Police now acquiesce in this clause. That was certainly not the information which I received as late as twenty-four hours ago. I hope that on the point which I raised as to the ambiguous character of the clause the Lord Chairman will be able to give us some assurance.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I think the noble Lord's fears are groundless. The point is this. Under the clause the Council may provide, maintain, work, and use trailer carriages, and later on appear the words "at such times as the Board of Trade may approve." Therefore the Board of Trade are to approve the times at which the trailers are used, and if the County Council wish to use coupled carriages they have to get a second approval from the Board of Trade. That is the position of the clause as it stands.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
I hope the noble Earl's interpretation is right, but I still think the clause ambiguous.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.