HC Deb 24 April 1885 vol 297 cc629-43

Order for Second Heading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Dodds.)


, in moving the rejection of the Bill, said, he desired to call the attention of the House to the important nature of the provisions of the measure and the very considerable powers which it proposed to take. A measure very similar was introduced by the London Street Tramways Company last year, but was rejected by the Select Committee to which it was referred. As originally introduced in the present year, it was a very large scheme, which would have materially affected an Institution with which he had the honour to be connected—the Foundling Hospital; but that part of the scheme had been dropped, and therefore he did not speak on behalf of that Institution, which was satisfied with the course which had been taken. He was authorized, however, to speak on behalf of other persons who opposed the scheme in the last Session of Parliament, and who succeeded in getting a decision of the Committee in their favour. The Bill consisted of several parts, and proposed to authorize the Company to construct additional tramways, and, in connection therewith, to improve certain streets in the Metropolis; and he would deal with it as the promoters themselves dealt with it. In the first place, the measure comprised some small extensions in the neighbourhood of the Fleet Road. He did not know whether there was any objection to those extensions; his own objection related not so much to them as to other parts of the Bill. The measure further comprised extensions down the Chalk Farm Road, down a road called Crown-dale Road, and also a considerable extension down King's Cross Road. Having had some personal experience in the matter, he deemed it necessary to point out to the consideration of the House the objections to the scheme of the Company which that personal experience enabled him to mention. In regard to what, for the purposes of argument, he would call scheme No. 1—the extension down Chalk Farm Road—it was a road upon which, as many Members of the House would be aware, there was a very considerable traffic, and a main road running as far as Hampstead Heath. Many omnibuses passed along it, and in parts the traffic was of a very congested and difficult nature. An iron bridge carried it over the Regent's Canal in Camden Town, and along a portion of the road which was approached by gradients of considerable steepness. The bridge was a girder bridge, which only admitted of one carriage with two lines of passage, one up and the other down, which were only wide enough to admit of one carriage passing to or fro at the same time. It was proposed by the Tramway Company that they should have the power of passing over that narrow bridge, and up and down that incline, without any alteration of the gradient or any lateral extension of the bridge. The consequence would be that under the powers which the street tramways usually possessed they would have complete control over the traffic. They talked themselves of "marshalling the traffic," which he presumed to mean that they would stop all other traffic until their own tram-cars had passed; and as it would be impossible for any other carriages to pass at the same time, the rest of the traffic along the road would be completely at the mercy of the Tramway Company. It was quite evident that such powers would be highly inconvenient, and might be exercised very much to the detriment of the general public. He could not find that there was any great reason for this extension, and it would only be necessary for the tramway to make a small detour in order to reach the same point, and the traffic was already abundantly provided for. So much, then, for the proposed extension along the Chalk Farm Road. He now came to scheme No. 2, by which it was proposed to extend the tramway system down the road from King's Cross, where the Great Northern Railway Station was situated, so as to carry on the traffic down the Farringdon Road to Blackfriars Bridge, along and across roads upon which there was also, at the present moment, a considerable amount of traffic. This road would be carried along the whole line of the old Fleet Ditch, following pretty closely the valley through which the ditch formerly ran, and having on each side very steep, sloping streets. In one instance a street ran down to the valley at a gradient of something like 1 in 13. There were streets on both sides along which the traffic was very considerable. It would, therefore, be pretty well imagined that the running of tramcars along this route would be a source of great danger to the traffic coming down at right angles from the steep roads on each side. That fact was felt to be a strong ground of objection to the Bill when it was before the Select Committee last year; but they were told now that it was proposed to undertake certain engineering works in the neighbourhood of King's Cross which, in future, would obviate the difficulty. The nature of the ground, however, would render it almost impossible to construct a tramway with safety to the ordinary traffic, because, as he had pointed out already, the streets on both sides of the valley sloped down to the centre upon very steep gradients, and unless the banks were dealt with it would be impossible to obviate the difficulty at all. The provisions of the Bill were fully considered by the Committee last year; and it was for the House to consider whether by allowing the Bill to pass now they would reverse the decision then arrived at, and also whether they would sanction the principle of allowing the promoters of Private Bills to come before Parliament, year after year, with the same scheme, in the hope, in the end, by the enormous expenses incurred, of wearing down their opponents. It would be manifest that a powerful Company like this, coming before Parliament year after year, would gradually wear down any power of resistance on the part of their less wealthy opponents. It must be borne in mind that Parliament had already intimated, as plainly as possible, that tramways would not be allowed to be constructed in the centre of London. There could only be one object in promoting this King's Cross extension—namely, to bring the system of tramways which now existed in the outskirts on the Northern side of the Metropolis into the heart of London. As the scheme was now presented, it terminated in nothing—indeed, there was no terminus indicated at all; but, no doubt, the object of the Company was to connect the system here-after with Blackfriars Bridge and the tramways now existing on the South side of the river, so as to carry the tramways across the Thames, and place the lines on the North and South side of London in immediate connection with each other. He ventured to submit that he had shown sufficient grounds to induce the House to refuse to read the Bill a second time; but his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) would probably state, by-and-bye, what the views of the Committee of last year were. Even without taking into consideration the grounds upon which the Committee threw out the Bill, he thought he might safely appeal to the House, on public grounds, not to permit these tramways to find their way into the heart of London. They were already able to roach the City by means of the City Road, and they should be kept to that perfectly clear and well-defined line. There already existed sufficient means of communication between the North side of London and the City; and while the Northern tramways were restricted to the North side of London, those on the South side of the Thames should be kept to the South side as they now were. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Gregory.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that in supporting the second reading of the Bill he wished to express his regret at the course which his hon. Friend had taken. There were a great number of provisions contained in the Bill to which his hon. Friend took no objection at all; and it would be a departure from the ordinary and almost uniform practice of the House, where a Bill contained provisions of a separate and distinct character, not to send that Bill to a tribunal upstairs specially appointed to decide upon its merits. If the House consented to depart from that rule now, there could be no doubt that they would be called upon to do so in other cases; and their decisions in reference to Private Bills would hereafter depend upon the chance of bringing up a certain number of Members to support or reject a measure without the possibility being afforded of entering into the merits of any case of the kind. There was one ground which might induce the House to take a favourable consideration of the present measure which he thought the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex, who presided over the Committee last year, would be the last person to disregard when his attention was called to the matter. He (Mr. Torrens) had now been for 12 months engaged upon a Royal Commission appointed to investigate the cause, and to suggest remedies to get rid of the overcrowding of the population in the centre of large towns; and he would be guilty of no violation of confidence, although the Report of the Commission had not yet been laid upon the Table, if he said that the Commissioners were in absolute despair whore to find sufficient remedies for the cruel pressure which now existed. Not only was the pressure seriously felt, but it was positively detrimental to the health of the whole community; and yet his hon. and learned Friend said that Parliament ought to keep these tramways from getting into the centre of the Metropolis. He (Mr. Torrens) frankly avowed that his object was to bring them as close as possible to the centre of the town, and he took that course for the sake of the community at large, because it was impossible at present to find vents enough to relieve the pressure which now existed—a pressure full of future danger, and calculated to produce ultimately every evil that could be enumerated. He regretted that his hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) had not been a Member of the Commission, so that he might have been able to bring his great knowledge and sagacity to bear upon its deliberations; but, owing to the fact that his hon. Friend was not upon it, he was unable to appreciate the pressing necessity for relief, and, by the action he was now taking, was, in point of fact, attempting to get rid of a source of relief. He (Mr. Torrens) contended that the first duty of the House was to consider the interests and welfare of the community at large. What was the case of those who objected to this tramway line? His hon. Friend said he appeared there to advocate the claims of certain persons who opposed a similar scheme when it was introduced last Session. About 210 owners of property along the proposed route were interested in the matter, and of that number about 50 had petitioned against the Bill. Surely the House of Commons were not to be bound by one-fourth against the other three-fourths. Considering the matter upon that ground, he entirely denied that there was any case for the opposition. No doubt the Bill of last Session was rejected by the Committee; but that, he thought, did not bind the House in regard to a new Bill, and it would be very unfair to prevent the promoters from going before a Committee again. A Committee upstairs, after the Bill had been read a second time, would fully inquire into all the provisions of the Bill, and would be able to say whether the question of the narrow bridge referred to by his hon. Friend ought to be regarded as a valid objection to a particular clause of the measure. It would, however, be no reason for throwing out the whole Bill, which was a measure of many clauses, which clauses, for the most part, were unopposed. He asked the House, therefore, not to depart from their usual practice, but to repose confidence in the tribunal to which they were accustomed to intrust these questions. Seeing that the House itself was altogether unfit to discuss such questions, let them hesitate before they usurped the functions of their ordinary tribunal. They had hitherto found their Committees thoroughly reliable; but that was no reason why they should be bound by a single decision, and for all future time refuse to reopen a question which had been once decided. The promoters believed they would now be able to remove the physical objections which were raised against their scheme last year, and that their new proposals would meet with the approval of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex, who presided over the Select Committee. The promoters had displayed every willingness to show deference to the opinions of the Committee; but the House had something even more than that to consider—namely, the interests and welfare of the people of London generally. He trusted the House would not be led away by the objections which had been raised by his hon. Friend, and which were very small indeed when compared with the general public advantages which would be conferred by the Bill, which advantages were of a nature that could scarcely be realized by those who had not served upon the Commission of which he had the honour to be a Member.


said, he would much rather not have taken any part in this discussion; but as he was Chairman of the Committee which considered what was practically the present Bill as it stood, with a very slight alteration, he felt bound to say a few words, and to put before the House, in the first place, the reasons which induced the Committee last year to decide unanimously to reject the Bill as it was then promoted, and the difference which existed between the present measure and that of last year. The principal object of the Bill of last year was identical with that of the measure now under the consideration of the House—namely, the construction of a system of tramways along the Northern road by the extension of existing tramway lines in the neighbourhood of Camden Town and Chalk Farm Road, and a proposal to carry those tramways on by way of King's Cross Road to Farringdon Street. There was also a further proposal to connect two existing tramways running down the Crowndale Road, which was not in the Bill of last year; but, with that exception, his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) would not be able to show that this Bill differed in any material point from the one which was carefully considered by the Committee last year, and after that careful consideration thrown out upon public grounds. The Committee took considerable pains to make themselves masters of all the engineering details of the Bill; they visited the sites in each instance, and had those sites fully explained to them, as well as the engineering difficulties. In dealing, for instance, with the Chalk Farm Road route, they inspected the bridge over the Regent's Canal and the gradients of the road leading to the bridge, and the proposals contained in the measure with regard to that bridge certainly formed one of the chief objections they took to the measure. The bridge itself was divided into two narrow compartments sufficient for the passing of a single carriage each way, and the gradients of the approaches were unusually steep. In these respects the present Bill did not propose to alter the provisions of the measure of last year, and if the tramway were constructed the existing traffic must necessarily be materially impeded. As many hon. Members knew, the traffic was at the present moment very much congested; but, by making a detour, a delay of some four or five minutes only would take place, although he admitted that the altera- tion would involve a change of carriages. But the whole saving which the proposed scheme would effect really would not amount to more than that; and at the present moment there existed a tramway line running along part of nearly the same route as the projected extension, which was utilized for the conveyance of the same people which the new line was intended to serve. Consequently, the masses of the population, which his hon. Friend (Mr. Torrens) was desirous of serving, would sustain no serious injury; and he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) was quite as anxious of providing them with every facility for getting to and from their daily labour as his hon. Friend. The length of the line would be a little shorter, he admitted; but, practically, the persons whom the present Bill was intended to serve would be placed at no disadvantage, and the connection between two existing tramway lines could be made, and one route formed at the present moment by going a little further round. The engineering difficulties involved in carrying out the proposed scheme were very great, and the construction of a tramway line would inflict considerable injury upon the public by blocking up the already crowded traffic along the Chalk Farm Road. Both the goods traffic and the passenger traffic by omnibus would be impeded, and it was upon that ground mainly that the Bill of last year was rejected. The scientific men who were examined before the Committee were entirely agreed as to the engineering difficulties; but, beyond that, the Committee examined the line of route, and were able to form their own opinion as to the inconvenience and confusion which a block at the Canal Bridge would occasion. By the other part of the scheme, the Tramway Company sought power to construct a line running from King's Cross to Farringdon Road, and in that case the danger to the traffic would even be still greater than it was on the other line. As his hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) had pointed out, the road along which it was proposed to carry the tramway occupied the site of the old Fleet Ditch, and ran down from the Pentonville Road to a street called Wharton Street, the gradients along the whole line being exceedingly steep. Not only would a block there be extremely dangerous, as his hon. Friend suggested, but several accidents bad taken place quite recently, before the visit of the Committee, in consequence of horses getting the better of their drivers, and galloping down the street at a pace which rendered it impossible to stop them. The footway was consequently rendered exceedingly unsafe; and he might add that the footway which ran upon one side of these inclined streets, along the whole of that part of King's Cross Road, was most dangerous even at the present moment, and would be infinitely more so if this tramway were constructed. Indeed, the present Bill would increase the danger, as it would be impossible to diminish the levels, and it was proposed to increase the height of the road. Therefore, all the dangers which were pointed out to the Committee last year would be retained, and, to his mind, would even, if possible, be increased. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury had spoken in the interests of the working classes; but it so happened that, although this tramway line would be dangerous if it were allowed to be constructed, there did exist in the Metropolitan Railway, along the whole line of the contemplated tramway, that cheap means of conveyance which his hon. Friend would like to see established for the working population. They practically had at their disposal now, by the Underground Railway, and, in the Northern part of the district, by existing tramways, although in one instance for a shorter distance, a double means of conveyance, without any of the dangers involved in the construction of the proposed line, which dangers, although they induced the Committee to reject the Bill last year, did not appear to have been obviated in the least degree. He certainly thought the Committee were right in the decision at which they arrived last year, and that it ought to be maintained in the present instance. In conclusion, he would merely point out to the House that, although he would be the last person to advocate that the House should take into its own hands the decision of questions involved in Private Bills, which were far better threshed out before a Committee upstairs, yet he did think that when the same Bill was brought forward year after year without any material alteration, notwithstanding the fact that the reasons for rejecting the measure were the engineering difficulties and the danger to the public, the House, in this instance, would be perfectly justified in supporting the conclusion come to by the Committee of last year, and in rejecting the Bill.


said, he thought that the principle laid down by the hon. Baronet was a rather objectionable one, because it amounted to this—that if people went before a Committee with certain evidence, the decision of the Committee upon that evidence was to be a decision for all time, which was never to be upset hereafter upon any additional evidence or consideration. He had no doubt that the Committee last year came to a perfectly legitimate decision on the Bill then placed before them; and if the House were now asked to support them in that decision he should certainly feel inclined to do so. But circumstances had changed, and in the present year another scheme was brought before Parliament, and it would be stretching the procedure of that House to a very unwarrantable extent if, because the Committee decided against the Bill of last year, the House were to refuse to read the present Bill a second time now. What was the Manchester Ship Canal Bill but a great scheme which came before Parliament year after year. So far from finding the decision of one Committee rigidly adhered to, it was notorious that in the case of that Bill both the House of Commons and the House of Lords had in each successive year reversed the decision given in the preceding year. It was generally admitted that this scheme, if carried, would be an enormous boon to the Metropolis; and Parliament had long been attempting to find a remedy, in the interests of the working classes, for the congested condition of certain districts. The answer of the hon. Baronet was that there was provision already; that the passengers could get out of the tramcars at King's Cross and get into a train on the Metropolitan Railway which would take them on to Farringdon Street. Was that a reasonable proposal? Was it more convenient to go the whole way by a tramcar, or to go part by tramcar and the rest by the Metropolitan Railway? He certainly thought that when the hon. Baronet mentioned the Metropolitan Railway he really let the cat out of the bag, and that the opposition which was that day directed against the second reading of the Bill was not the opposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), or of the landowners and frontiers who could not afford to come there to oppose the Bill year after year, but the opposition of the Metropolitan Railway Company, and an expression of the determination of a powerful and influential body to prevent a scheme for the cheap conveyance of the people to and from their daily labour from being heard in the usual way before the ordinary tribunal. Having listened carefully to the discussion, and especially to the speeches of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), and the hon. Member for East Sussex, he had arrived at the conclusion that the whole question was one of engineering, which it was quite impossible for the House to settle offhand in half-an-hour. According to the practice and procedure of Parliament it was eminently a question which ought to be submitted to the consideration of a Committee upstairs, who would come to a decision after hearing the engineering evidence which would be laid before them. For these reasons he should support the second reading of the Bill.


said, he had only one remark to make in reference to the opposition which the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex had given to the Bill; and it was to call the attention of the House to a curious fact which occurred the other day. On the occasion to which he referred there was a similar discussion on another measure, and it would be found that the hon. Baronet strongly supported the second reading, urging as a reason that the second reading of a Private Bill was very seldom refused in the House itself, and pointing out that if the Petitioners could show any case against the Bill, they would have full opportunity of being heard before the Committee. [Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON: Hear, hear!] His hon. Friend said "Hear, hear;" but he did not think that cheer was quite consistent with the course taken by his hon. Friend in regard to the present Bill.


said, the circumstances were altogether different. In the one case it was a new Bill; but in the other they were asked to read a second time a Bill which had already been considered by a Committee and rejected.


said, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had already pointed out that the Manchester Ship Canal Bill was a case strictly in point. In that ease the engineering evidence had been rejected by one House one year, and by the other in the next year; and although the question was entirely one of engineering difficulties, the Bill was still brought forward this year and referred to a Select Committee. Then upon what ground were they, in this instance, to reverse the usual practice of the House, and to come to the conclusion that because a Bill had been thrown out one year it must not be introduced, even in another form, in a following year? So far as he was acquainted with the procedure of the House that would be an entirely now practice. There was also another ground for referring the Bill to a Committee upstairs. Last year the promoters had no reason to expect that they were going to have any opposition, and they were not prepared, as they were now, to bring forward rebutting testimony. They would be able to do so this year, and they believed they would be able to give a complete answer to the engineering difficulties which were urged against the Bill last year. He hoped, therefore, that the House, duly considering the importance of the Bill to the public, and the fact that on some of the proposed tramway extensions all the persons interested in the property, who were the only persons who ought to be consulted, were almost unanimously in favour of the Bill, while on the remaining sections of the line the Petitioners only represented one-fourth or one-fifth of the owners and occupiers of property, would allow the measure, as the least thing they could do, to go before a Select Committee.


said, he had brought a very open mind to the consideration of this question; but he must say that the speeches of his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), and his hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), had convinced him that the Bill was one which ought to be read a second time in order that it might be inquired into by a Committee. His hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex said that his desire was to keep the tramways out of the heart of London. That was quite another question. Tramways might be a very desirable thing, or they might be objectionable; but this was not the case of an encroaching railway sending out its feeders much to the detriment of other persons. It appeared to him that the construction of this tramway would be of great advantage to the public and to the poorer classes of the community. These tramways were used mainly by the working classes; and the question he asked himself was whether this extension was desirable or not, and whether it was likely to confer benefit upon those classes? In passing, he might say that it was very much to be regretted that other subjects had been imported into the consideration of a question of this kind, such, for instance, as engineering questions, which were clearly matters to be decided by a Committee after investigation and the hearing of evidence. He quite accepted the statement of his hon. Friend who presided so ably over the Committee last year. There might have been reasons then upon which it was thought desirable not to pass the Bill; but those reasons, as far as he was informed, did not exist to the same extent this year. As he understood the project, it was that of a Tramway Company already in possession of some considerable tramway lines not in a part of London where their existence was considered objectionable, but in a part of London crowded with working classes, and leading from their doors to the nearest place where they could really obtain fresh air—namely, Hampstead. What was the object of the Tramway Company in this instance? So far as he was able to judge, it was to shorten, as an examination of the map would show that it did, the time occupied in the journey to Hampstead by about ten minutes. It was true that another matter had been referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex; but it was entirely an engineering difficulty which could not be discussed in the House itself, but must be investigated by a Select Committee, and dealt with by them in such a way as to provide for the general traffic without detriment to the public. These, however, were essentially matters for the consideration of a Committee, because such details could never be discussed in the House, nor could it be of advantage that such questions should be decided in the House. To his mind, the principle on which the Bill was founded was one of public advantage—to give the general public a better and cheaper means of locomotion which all desired to see carried out. The means by which effect was proposed to be given to that desire were questions entirely for the consideration of the Committee upstairs. For these reasons, and for higher reasons still, he thought the House would act most unwisely if it were to reject the measure; and he felt it his duty to advise the House to pass the second reading of the Bill.


said, that when the first tramway was laid in London it was generally objected to, and was very soon taken up. We had become wiser since, and had discovered that tramways were a great benefit to the working classes. London was now so well provided with tramways that the working classes were enabled to get into the country when they desired to do so, and to obtain not only cheaper rents, but purer air. It would, therefore, be very much to be regretted if the House were at this stage to throw out the Bill. He thought that the engineering difficulties could be much better settled by a Select Committee than in the House itself; and he trusted that the House would assent to the second reading of the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.