HC Deb 16 March 1886 vol 303 cc948-66

Order for Second Reading read.

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


I rise for the purpose of moving the Instruction which stands upon the Paper in my name.


The Motion of the hon. Member will come in more properly after the Bill has been read a second time.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.


I rise for the purpose of moving— That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Bill, to insert a Clause providing that the Company shall, at the expiration of their present agreements with the contractors for, or tenants of, the bookstalls upon the premises of the Company, put such bookstalls up to public competition among the newsvendors and others being bonâ fide residents in the borough, or, if outside a borough, in the county in which such stalls are situate, and that the Company shall be bound to enter into no agreement for the letting of any bookstall for any period longer than three years. The object of the Motion I have placed on the Paper is to put an end to the present virtual monopoly of railway bookstalls, which acts not only in restraint of trade, but also establishes a practical and irresponsible censorship of the Press. Hon. Members have probably received, like myself, a paper which purports to come from the Brighton Railway Company, as also one from the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company, with regard to the terms of my Motion; but it is perfectly evident, from internal evidence, that the paper in question emanates, not from these Companies, but from the monopolists, against whose privilege I ask the House to record its opinion. It is complained in one of the papers that the subject matter of the Motion has nothing to do with anything contained in the Bill. But the monopolists themselves, in their representation, admit that the Bill is an Omnibus Bill, and the objects at which it aims are of a miscellaneous character. Under those circumstances, I know no Bill which I could better have pitched upon for my Motion. At the same time, I am free to confess that it is not because the Bill relates to the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company that I have placed the Motion on the Paper; but, as I conceive it affects one Company as much as another, I have taken the first Bill which presented an opportunity for bringing it forward. Now, Sir, the monopoly which I complain of is one of a very gigantic character. It throws into the hands of one single Company such an advantage in matters of trade, that individual vendors and proprietors have no chance at all of competing against them; and, therefore, I trust that I shall obtain the support not only of the Free Traders who sit on the other side of the House, but also of the Fair Traders who sit upon this side. To give the House an idea of the extent of this monopoly, I crave permission to state a few figures, in order to show the amount of advantage this particular Company of monopolists are allowed to enjoy. I am informed that hundreds of newspapers have been practically ruined, because they are unable to submit to the exactions to which the monopolists have attempted to subject them. In order to illustrate the nature of the monopoly, I will take, say, 65,000 copies as the issue of any daily penny paper. They are issued by the proprietors in quires of 26 copies apiece, which represents 2,500 quires of 26 each. To the trade they are sold at 1s. 6d. per quire, which comes to £187 10s. net. They bring in retail £250 net; not counting the extra two in each quire; but, allowing for them, the total profit on the one single penny paper is £83 6s. 8d. There are 26 days in the average month, and the profit per month is £2,126 on each penny paper, which represents a total of £29,645 per annum. The monopolists, though they do not themselves allow any discount when they are paid bills, which they are able to collect from their debtors themselves, always deduct 5 per cent from the newspapers when they pay their own bills. Now, as there are besides The Times and The Morning Advertiser, and the evening papers, five penny papers in London, out of the penny papers alone this particular firm makes a profit of no less than £148,225 a-year. If you take the weekly papers at 6d., Messrs. W. H. Smith and Company order, say, 100 quires of 26 copies at 8s. a quire; that comes to £40; and allowing, say, 40 for returns, the amount due from the monopolists to the newspaper proprietors is £24 each week. They pay only once a month; deducting returns, the total sum paid per month should be £134; but they deduct there, again, 5 per cent. But besides this deduction from the payment for the newspapers, they charge for the placards, which appear in the stations, at the rate of 2s. per month, so that out of every payment of £98 16s. comes first of all a deduction of £10, which brings it down to £88 16s., and the proprietors of the newspapers are obliged to advertise in at least 100 stations at £2 2s. per advertisement, for which I take off £25 more, which reduces the amount received by the newspaper proprietors to the moderate sum of £63 16s. Well, Sir, as a matter of fact the Railway Company, whose business under the law is to provide for transport only, do indirectly go beyond their legal powers by thus engaging—by means of com- mission—in the sale of newspapers. They are paid, not by rent, but by a commission, which is, at any rate in some cases, 10 per cent on the takings or profits of the London bookstalls, and 5 per cent of those in the country. I expect that, if this fact were brought under the notice of the Board of Trade and of the Railway Commissioners, they might have something to say to this particular aspect of it. Besides infringing the law in that particular respect, they also, it seems to me, distinctly infringe the law in respect of letters and parcels; because, with regard to the monopolists, they have a system under which there is a different charge made from that which is made to individual tradesmen. With all the Railway Companies the monopolists have special arrangements by which parcels are carried. Large and small parcels, and even single papers in wrappers, are all weighed together, and the bulk weight charged at one rate for any distance. Of course, by this arrangement, the actual charge for any particular parcel is reduced to a minimum. All other persons pay the actual charge upon every particular parcel; but in this case thousands of parcels, papers, and letters, causing the indirect infringement of the Act relating to the Post Office, are carried by many trains without any charge at all, and without going through the Company's parcel office. Anybody will see that that is so, if they will take the trouble to stand upon any railway platform in London, where, by almost every train, it will be seen that parcels are handed in and carried without charge, and in a large number of cases letters also. Well, Sir, we are accustomed to hear year after year speeches of a philanthropic character addressed to benevolent people, who are interested in the newsvendors; and one right hon. Gentleman in this House has, I think, on many occasions presided and taken an active part in those gatherings. One would suppose from the utterances at those gatherings that the monopolists in question were particularly anxious to treat those in their employment kindly and considerately. But that is by no means the case. Nothing is more frequent than for men who have been employed at those railway platform bookstalls to receive a dismissal, after a considerable number of years' service, without anything in the way of solatium or compensation. The last case of the kind I have heard of is one which occurred in Dublin only this year, where a worthy man named Kenny, who had been for more than 16 years employed by Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co.'s people at the Broadstone Station and platform as agent for the sale of books, suddenly received his dismissal a few months ago. His case was considered a hard one, and some benevolent and kind-hearted people in Dublin, including Mr. Conolly, got together sufficient means to enable him to start as a news-vendor outside the station. Well, what was the result? The people frequenting the station, considering that the case was a hard one, went to Kenny for their newspapers instead of buying them at the railway bookstall, and Kenny's place was put up near Mr. Conolly's timber yard close to the station, whereupon the monopolists sent him this letter— We have been thinking very seriously over your getting papers from us, and have decided that we cannot continue to supply you. We will let you have your order for next week to give you time to make other arrangements; but after next week we will not supply you with any newspapers. As a matter of fact, this firm has a monopoly not only on the railways, but also a monopoly of the Dublin wholesale trade; and in consequence of their refusal to supply this poor man Kenny with newspapers he is obliged to go round to the office of each particular newspaper every day in order to collect the papers he requires for his business, and all because independent customers choose to go to him rather than to the railway bookstall. There is one other aspect of this monopoly, which, I think, is perhaps a more important matter from a public point of view; and it is that the monopolists have established a practical censorship of the Press in accordance with which they "Boycott" any newspaper or other publication which does not happen to suit their fancy. Now, the railways themselves are precluded from any preferential treatment of that kind; and I do not see what justification can be advanced for the establishment of such a system with respect to the sale of newspapers or books upon railway premises. With these observations, I beg to move the Instruction which stands on the Paper in my name.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Bill, to insert a Clause providing that the Company shall, at the expiration of their present agreements with the contractors for, or tenants of, the bookstalls upon the premises of the Company, put such bookstalls up to public competition among the newsvendors and others being bonâ fide residents in the borough, or, if outside a borough, in the county in which such stalls are situate, and that the Company shall be bound to enter into no agreement for the letting of any bookstall for any period longer than three years."—(Mr. Arthur O' Connor.)

MR. MARRIOTT (Brighton)

On behalf of the Railway Company I hope that this House will not assent to the Motion. It is very difficult to know why an Instruction should be given to a Railway Company to impose any restraint upon them with regard to the contracts they may deem it desirable to enter into with reference to the bookstalls on their line. If so, why not impose similar restraints upon them in regard to the refreshments and the locomotives they supply? The imposition of such a restraint would render it impossible for the Company to manage their traffic properly; and considering that a Bill has been introduced only the other day, giving great powers to the Railway Companies and enabling them to prevent anything like an abuse of the powers conferred upon Railway Companies, it does seem something like a large interference with the trading powers of a Railway Company to give such an Instruction to a Committee, who will simply have to sit upon an Omnibus Bill. With regard to the hon. Member who has moved this Instruction, he has not adduced a single reason why an exception should be made in this case. The fact is that the Brighton Company have a regular practice of putting their stalls up for competition. It is true that there are not many competitors; I believe there are only two—Messrs. Smith and Messrs. Willing—but that is because nobody without a large amount of capital and thorough business capacity would be capable of working such an undertaking to the benefit of the public at large. The essence of the Motion is this—that if it be carried it will inflict intolerable discomfort on all who live near a railway, and the public will be the chief sufferers. As far as I understand, the Instruction is to provide that the whole of the bookstalls of a railway are not to be contracted for by one person, but that they shall be allowed to fall into different hands; so that the people of Brighton would go to one contractor, the people of Hayward's Heath to another, the people of Croydon to a third, while the people of London would still have to go to Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. The result of that would be that nobody would be induced to take up the smaller stations. Under the present system, Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. take the good with the bad; and anybody who knows anything about the business knows that there are many stations in regard to which the contractors lose by supplying libraries of books and newspapers. Therefore, as I have already stated, the public will be the great sufferers if this Instruction is passed; and many hundreds of people will miss their morning paper at breakfast, will lose a lending library in their own neighbourhood, and will be placed in a position of the greatest discomfort, if the House assents to the Motion the hon. Gentleman has proposed—I do not know in whose interest, but it is certainly not in the interest of the public. We know very well how the public gain by letting private enterprize have full play. I quite admit that Railway Companies are under statutory powers and Governmental control, and that they will be under more control when the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is passed; but this Instruction involves an unheard-of interference with the rights of private trade. I will not trouble the House more, because I think it preposterous to suppose that such a Resolution as this will be approved of by the House; and I ask the House, in the interests of the public, and in no way in the interests either of the Railway Company or of Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co., to reject this Motion. I do not know how Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. conduct their business; but I do know that they pay the Railway Company best, and I have every reason to believe that they conduct their business to the general satisfaction of the public. As to the censorship of the Press exercised by Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co., I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means. So far as my experience goes, all classes of newspapers and books, whatever opinions they contain, are to be found on the bookstalls. [Cries of "No!"] I have certainly seen the most Radical newspapers and the most Radical leaflets of every description; and I will simply ask the House now, on behalf of the public, not to interfere with the rights which this Railway Company ought to possess.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

My hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) spoke of Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. as monopolists; but they are in no sort of way monopolists. No doubt they tender for the whole system of stations on a railway; but I presume that if anybody else sent in a tender, and offered a larger amount of money, that person would get the contract. My hon. Friend objects that a tender should necessarily be submitted for all the stations upon a railway, and he says that tenders should be permitted to be sent in from local persons for all the local stations. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed the House spoke from a railway point of view. Now, I speak from a newspaper proprietor's point of view, and I say that the present system is far better for the newspaper proprietors, and necessarily for the public, than the system suggested by my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend is probably not aware of the vast number of newspapers which have to be sent down from London to the country. These newspapers are delivered to Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. at their offices in bulk, and Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. deliver them to the chief stations in London in bulk; they are then placed in vans, and while in transition they are sorted and got ready for distribution. If the Instruction of my hon. Friend were forced on the Railway Companies, the result would be that the newspapers could not reach the country as early as they do at present; and, therefore, the public would really be the losers. My hon. Friend said that Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. make a great deal of money; but he has taken the gross receipts instead of the net. Now, I do not know what Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. make; but when my hon. Friend points out what money this Company make out of the newspaper proprietors, all I have to say is that the newspaper proprietors in no way complain. In point of fact, they know perfectly well that it would cost them a great deal more under what is called the system of "returns" to send the different newspapers to the various local stations. Moreover, the newspaper proprietors are perfectly certain, with regard to Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co., that they will get their money at the end of the week, or of the month, or whatever may be the time fixed; whereas, if they were to deal with all these excellent, local, and worthy persons, it is possible they might find, that, although the newspapers were sold, they did not get the money. My hon. Friend says that Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. exercise a censorship over the Press. Now, I really do not think that that is the case. I do not think that any hon. Member can cite any particular newspaper or book which Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. have "Boycotted." No doubt, however, there are newspapers which they do not put on their stalls; but it is for the simple reason that there is no demand for them. The clerk at a particular station is told to send for anything that is asked for; and if he does not send for a particular book or paper, there is a proof that the particular article, whether a book or a newspaper, is not required. I may say further that, as I believe every clerk receives a percentage on his sale, he would naturally, with perfect indifference to politics, look to his own interests, and ask Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. to send everything which he thought he was likely to sell. My hon. Friend has quoted the case of a man named Kenny at Dublin; but I do not quite understand the contention of my hon. Friend; because, if Mr. Kenny has established a shop for the sale of newspapers, Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. cannot hinder him from getting those newspapers. He has simply to send direct to the newspaper offices, and to show that he is a respectable and responsible man, when he will get all the newspapers he requires. In all parts of the country there are newsvendors now, and they are supplied on just the same principle as Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. I really do not think that my hon. Friend will benefit the newspaper proprietors, and he certainly will not benefit the readers of newspapers, if the Instruction he has moved is passed. I therefore hope he will withdraw it.


The Bill of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company is not at this moment the subject of discussion; but in the statement made by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) he referred to that Company; and as the allegations he has brought forward are not accurate, so far as that Company are concerned, I should like to say one or two words on the subject. When I first saw this Instruction, I really thought that the hon. Member was indulging in a sort of Hibernian joke at the expense of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. W. H. Smith). I have been for some years in the House of Commons, and I have heard a great many strange Motions submitted to the consideration of this House; but I do not think that I ever heard a more monstrous, and, I may say, a more ridiculous, proposition submitted for our consideration than the Motion now before us. I would like to ask the House what either the hon. Gentleman or Parliament can have to do with the railway bookstalls? We have the right of letting them to whoever we think proper. We are not bound by statute to supply bookstalls at all. If we were bound by statute to do so, and failed in our duty, then the hon. Gentleman would have some semblance of justification for making this Motion. If the Motion were carried, what is there to prevent another hon. Gentleman from Ireland coming forward and saying—"You shall only sell Irish whisky at your refreshment rooms." The hon. Gentleman has made two statements which are absolutely false. In the first place, he stated that the Circular giving reasons for opposing his Motion which has been issued by the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company was not issued by that Company at all, but was prepared by Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. Now, I may inform the hon. Gentleman that the Paper he referred to was drawn up by Messrs. Martin and Leslie, the Parliamentary Agents, in accordance with the instructions they received from the Railway Company, and that Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. had nothing whatever to do with it. [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR: I referred to the Brighton Company.] I am not speaking of the Brighton Company, but of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company, and it will be in the recollection of the House that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that Company, as well as the Brighton Company; therefore, I am perfectly in Order in what I am stating. The hon. Member also said that we received a compensation on the sale of newspapers as well as from the rent of bookstalls. That is also perfectly untrue. We are paid a fixed rent by Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co., and when the contract expires we let our bookstalls to the most respectable firm we can find, on the best terms we can obtain.


I rise to Order. The hon. and gallant Member states that I have said what is perfectly untrue. I do not take any notice of the adjective; but, as a matter of fact, I did not say anything of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company.


I am merely submitting to the House that the statement of the hon. Member, so far as the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company are concerned, is not correct, and I may add that the Company have reserved to themselves the power of putting a veto upon the sale of any particular publications at any of their railway stations; and they intend to retain it, because they do not think that Railway Directors should allow their stations to become mediums for the publication of literature of a questionable character.


I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes; but it is necessary that I should reply to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down (Major Dickson). After the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), it certainly does not appear to me that the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) has established his proposition that the bookstall proprietors have an injurious commercial monopoly in the sale of the newspapers. It is perfectly clear, however, from the concluding sentences of the hon. and gallant Member for Dover (Major Dick- son), who represents the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company, that Railway Directors exercise, or claim to exercise, a kind of censorship over the publications sold at the bookstalls on their lines. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that they never allow their bookstalls to be a medium for the sale of improper publications. It may be quite right that they should not be the medium for the sale of improper publications; but it may become a very serious question for the House to consider whether Railway Directors ought to be the tribunal to decide upon such matters. There might be widely different opinions as to whether a particular publication was improper, or immoral, or not; and, personally, I am altogether against an unlicensed power of revision, whether it is exercised by a Company or individuals, and whether it be in respect of sale or purchase. I object to a trader having the power to say that he will not sell a particular thing, or will not trade with a particular person. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh; but perhaps they will go with me as far as this—that a trader, engaged in the sale of a particular article, is not to be the unlimited judge as to whether he will sell that article to persons who are obnoxious to him. If he did so, I believe the law might be called in, or it might be strengthened, so that he might be summoned to show that he had a reasonable cause for refusing. If the principle put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Dover were adopted, newspapers and books might be prohibited which a large number of persons might consider to be beneficial.


I never said anything of the sort. My remarks applied to treasonable, seditious, and indecent publications.


No doubt that is so; but the hon. and gallant Member is to exercise his opinion as to what he thinks seditious; and what the hon. and gallant Member might deem to be seditious might not be so regarded by another; and what he thinks immoral other persons might deem moral. I think, if the managers of the railway stalls are judicious, they would not drive this matter so far as to compel the law to be altered. I confess, for my own part, that I do not see why the law in respect to the sale of publications should not be somewhat altered if the case requires it. I would not allow a book, or a newspaper, or a man to be "Boycotted" at the discretion of any individual, or of any Railway Company. In fact, where a person has the privilege of supplying the public with a particular class of goods, and he refuses to supply particular persons with those goods, or refuses to supply particular goods which form a branch of his trade, he might be made liable to be summoned in order to show that he has reasonable grounds for refusing to make a supply. There must be some kind of tribunal besides Railway Directors and lessees to say what are and what are not to be sold at a bookstall. That proposition may appear to be revolutionary; but it is based upon a principle which underlies our law. The particular Motion, however, of the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) appears to me to be wholly inapplicable to the existing state of things, and it would not effect his purpose. The supply may be very bad; but what guarantee has he got that local traders would not have the same tender consciences in this matter as a Company? This Instruction would afford no safeguard against similar claims being made by these people in detail, as are now made by Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. On that ground, and on that ground alone, I object to the Instruction; but I cannot help thinking that it is a case which in future may grow to large dimensions, and may, at some future time, warrant the interference of Parliament, in order to defend the public against a discretion which, although exercised in a perfectly honest manner, may be prejudicial to the public interests

MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)

The sentiments put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means seem to some of us on this side of the House so monstrous that I feel called upon to say a word in reply. It amounts to this—that if Messrs. Graves, or Colnaghi, or any other print-seller are to be allowed to carry on their business, they must be required to sell any print which, forsooth, the hon. Gentleman happens to think is not indecent. That is what his statement amounts to.


Will the hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to explain. All I ventured to suggest was that there ought to be some tribunal before whom you can cite the individual who refuses to sell particular publications; but that you ought not to give an unlimited and unconditional power of censorship either to any Board of Railway Directors or to any individual.


It comes to this—that the hon. Gentleman or somebody else is to be the tribunal to decide. Why on earth, if persons are to be allowed to carry on a trade, should they not have the privilege of carrying it on in the way they think right? I trust that it will always be in the power of the Directors of Railway Companies to say who shall carry on a trade on their platforms, and what shall or shall not be sold upon their bookstalls. No doubt the case is different in regard to public-houses; they are allowed to be open for the purpose of entertaining the whole of the public, and so long as a man conducts himself decently he should be able to insist upon being served. But that is the only instance in which such compulsion is justifiable, and there is no analogy between the case of hotel-keepers and bookstalls. It cannot be denied that the persons responsible to the Directors of a Railway Company are in a position to form a proper estimate as to what books and periodicals ought to be sold at their stations. Surely, then, they should have a right to say whether filth like The Pall Mall Gazette should be allowed to be sold. They should have complete liberty in the matter, and a right to decide what shall not be sold on their premises. I presume the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is about to tell us that he himself would be a sufficient judge in such matters, and that the question ought to be left to the Board of Trade; but allow me to say on behalf of those who travel, not by the Brighton Railway particularly, but by railways generally, that we prefer that the Railway Directors should have the power of saying what should and what should not be sold, rather than that the decision should rest with the Board of Trade, or any other tribunal of that kind.


My hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down has made a speech for me which I certainly should not have made for myself. The Board of Trade have no desire whatever to perform the duty he desires to throw upon them, and my only object in rising is to invite the House not to widen the area of this discussion. In my opinion, we have gone a little beyond the subject of the Instruction moved by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor). Now, what is the question before us? The hon. Member for East Donegal asks the House to put a clause in an omnibus Railway Bill, restricting the right of contract on the part of Railway Companies with the persons with whom they may contract for the sale of newspapers and books. Now, if the House once undertakes this kind of intermeddling, I do not see where it would stop. There is really much more reason to interfere with regard to refreshments. A penny newspaper will always be sold for a penny; but refreshments are not always equally good or equally cheap. Moreover, the public are exceedingly well served under the present system. I have myself seen instances where the demand for a certain newspaper has been considerable on account of the peculiarity of some of its contents; but hon. Members may rely upon it that that is a matter which will cure itself. The public are quite able to take care of themselves; and, on the whole, I would ask the House not to waste its time in discussing the insertion of an Instruction of this nature, which I certainly think my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal has not acted wisely in endeavouring to introduce. I hope that he will now withdraw his Motion, and allow the House to go on with its ordinary Business.

MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)

I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Mundella) ought not to be surprised if the discussion has travelled out of the strict line of the Question put down on the Paper, and I have only to thank the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) for having afforded the House an opportunity of discussing the matter. In rising to address the House for the first time, I wish to take this opportunity of saying, as a Railway Director, that a more monstrous proposition than that submitted by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, I never heard put forward. I maintain, on the part of those charged with the conduct of the railways of this Kingdom, that they have every right to look after the character of the publications sold at their stations, and that they would be guilty of a gross dereliction of their duty if they did not exercise some sort of supervision over what is sold. I think it must be seen by the House that it would be an unwarrantable interference with the ordinary conduct of trade, if this Instruction were adopted, and, therefore, I hope that the House will refuse to sanction it.


Practically, the object I had in view has been attained; and I therefore ask the House to allow me to withdraw the Motion. [Cries of "No!"] I wish to add, as The Pall Mall Gazette has been alluded to, that that newspaper never for one moment entered into my thoughts.


Is it the pleasure of the House that the Motion be withdrawn? [Cries of "No!"]

Question again proposed.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I wish to point out to hon. Members who object to go to a division that probably the Motion of my hon. Friend may be carried if they insist upon dividing. At all events, I wish to say a few words in order to point out that if it is not carried, it may be possible for some Members who do not sympathize with the exact form of the Motion, but who do sympathize with the object my hon. Friend has in view, to amend the Instruction in such a way as to secure general support for it. Speaking as an Irish Nationalist Member, I have no personal complaint to make against the right hon. Member for the Strand (Mr. W. H. Smith) and his monopoly. I cannot say that it has been used against us to any serious extent; but, at the same time, it is a monopoly, and is used as a means of carrying on a censorship of the Press. No man in his senses, who knows anything about England, can maintain what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has stated—that a penny newspaper is always sold for a penny at the bookstalls. I altogether deny that. There is a newspaper which, like The Pall Mall Gazette, is a news- paper enormously read by the working classes of this country. I cannot say that I admire the newspaper to which I refer—namely,Reynolds's Newspaper; but it is very much admired by a large number of the working classes. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: That newspaper is sold on a Sunday.] Yes; but it may be bought also on a Monday. No doubt, it may contain articles which are considered by some persons to be strongly objectionable; but the working man has quite as much right to buy his newspaper as the rich man. From the statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, it would appear likely that this question may be raised again; and if it is not raised now in a shape which fairly recommends itself to a majority of the House, it may be put in shape presently which I dare say would meet with much greater support. We must recollect that a statement has already been made by a Railway Director that the Directors of Railway Companies do exercise a censorship over the publications sold at their stations, and that they intend to continue that censorship. [Major DICKSON: Only in regard to their own property.] Upon their own property, of course; but they have already had a monopoly given to them by the State, under restrictions that it shall be used for the public benefit, and in accordance with the public opinion of the country. Nevertheless, the hon. Member makes this monstrous proposition—that the Directors of the English Railways ought to be permitted to exercise a censorship of the Press all over England. That is exactly what his proposition amounts to; and he adds that he knows of no Body throughout the country which is better fitted to exercise that censorship. [Major DICKSON: No; I said nothing of the kind.] That proposition has very much widened the issue before the House; and although, personally, I have no grievance against the right hon. Member for the Strand (Mr. W. H. Smith) and his monopoly, I must admit that the working classes may have a grievance which requires to be carefully considered by this House.


I should like to say one word before the debate closes, and it is this—that if we accept this proposition we may be asked to accept a number of other similar ones. Many persons object to the unwholesome food which the travelling public are supplied with at the railway stations quite as much as to the unwholesome literature. I am quite able to confirm that view, because, in my opinion, much of the food provided at the railway stations is perfectly uneatable. Does the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) propose to lay down rules for the regulation of the rooms at railway stations now used for refreshment purposes? I only make this remark in order to point out that the proposition of the hon. Member, if accepted, would open up a large area of questions. We may not like a particular decision of any particular Railway Board of Directors; but, nevertheless, I would rather have the varying decisions of Railway Boards, than the establishment of a public censorship; and the observations of the hon. Gentleman certainly amount to this—that a public censor should be established to say whether any newspaper is good moral reading or not. Now, I would rather leave the determination of that question to the good sense and good judgment of the reading public. Let them decide that question by the ordinary system, and the ordinary system is that a trader will supply any particular goods if he finds there is a demand for them, his object being to obtain a profit by the sale. Therefore, I think the simplest course is to leave each particular trader to look after his own business, and to manage it in his own way, so long as he does no harm to the public, rather than establish the system of interference which the passing of this Instruction would involve.

SIR HENRY TYLER (Great Yarmouth)

This debate appears to have proceeded mainly on the assumptions partly put forward by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) that Messrs. W. H. Smith & Co. possess a monopoly in regard to the bookstalls of the Railway Companies, and that the Railway Companies themselves exercise a censorship over the Press. Now I maintain, in the first place, that there is really no monopoly in the case of the firm of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. W. H. Smith); and, in the second place, that there is practically no censorship of the Press exercised by Railway Directors. I object to both of these assumptions on the ground that they are untrue. The same course is taken with regard to these contracts as is taken in regard to the supply of refreshments referred to by the last speaker, the hon. Member for St. Pancras. In the latter case, the Railway Companies have been in the habit of letting out the refreshment rooms to contractors, just in the same way as they let the bookstalls; but of late several of the Railway Companies have taken the supply of refreshments into their own hands; and it is generally admitted as the result of experience that they have conducted the business of supplying refreshments with great success. So far as the Railway Companies are concerned, they have found it to their advantage, as well as to that of the public, to adopt this course; and so far as I am acquainted with the matter, as a Railway Director, no censorship whatever is exercised by Railway Directors over the Press.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I think, Sir, considering the course of the debate, and the request made to my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that he should withdraw his Motion, my hon. Friend had a right to expect that in proposing to withdraw it he would have met with different treatment from that which he has received at the hands of certain Gentlemen who have refused to allow the Motion to be withdrawn. I do not think that it has been considered that, if hon. Members persist in taking a division, it may be necessary for those who agree with the hon. Member for East Donegal to enter into the merits of this system with greater fulness. I, therefore, think that perhaps the most sensible and most convenient course would be to let the discussion stop here; and, with the view of procuring that result, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.


Does any hon. Member second the Motion?

MR. H. CAMPBELL (Fermanagh, S.)

seconded the Motion.

Motion made and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Sexton,)—put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Forward to