HC Deb 24 February 1891 vol 350 cc1510-34

Order for Second Reading read.

(7.25.) MR. THEOBALD (Essex, Romford)

The Bill, the Second Reading of which I have the honour to propose, is a short and simple one, and few words are necessary in explanation. The necessity for workmen's trains has been recognised by the Cheap Trains Act of 1883, which requires Railway Companies to provide proper and sufficient workmen's trains at such fares and at such times after 6 p.m. and before 8 a.m. as may appear to the Board of Trade to be reasonable. There has, however, been some difficulty in ascertaining the reasonableness, there has been an unwillingness to incur the expense, and I am not aware that the Board of Trade has ever been moved in the matter. The object of the Bill is to make it obligatory on the Railway Companies having a terminus in London to run workmen's trains within a radius of 12 miles from the London, ter- minus, arriving at the terminus before 8 o'clock, the tickets being available for the return journey by any train departing from the terminus after 5 p.m. on the day of issue, and after 12 noon on Saturdays, and to fix for the passengers a maximum return fare of one halfpenny per mile of the distance between the station and the terminus. At present the Great Eastern Company runs workmen's trains to and from Liverpool Street and Enfield, a distance of 11 miles, for a return fare of 2d., and the Directors admit that the trains pay when full. The fare to and from Elstree is 6d., a distance of 12 miles; Barking, eight miles, 3d.; and when the Hotel Metro-pole was being built at Brighton, I believe trains were run to and from London for workmen for 8d. per day. It is of great advantage to the working men, as well as to their families, that they should live in the country. If there is anything that tends to show the advantage of this, it is the presence among us of that unwelcome guest—no stranger and whom your authority, Mr. Speaker, cannot cause to withdraw—I mean the fog. It may be said that this same fog might prevent the carriage of the working classes quickly and punctually to their work in the early hours of the morning, but I may mention that a recent telephonic invention will enable two trains rapidly travelling on the same line to maintain a given distance without danger of accident. I do not think I need elaborate the advantages of such a system of cheap trains, the object of the Bill is well understood and I hope the House will give it a Second Reading.

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

(7.28.) MR. MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)

The object of the Bill is to make clear what the maximum charge of the Railway Companies for these workmen's trains is. The Act of 1883 provides that within the hours specified trains for workmen shall be run on terms that may appear reasonable to the Board of Trade, and, of course, the Board would not require such trains to run unless there were passengers to carry. But the all-important item in the arrangement is the fare charged, because it is obviously out of the question that an ordinary workman can afford to pay at the rate of 1d. a mile for distances up to 12 miles. Owing to the present system of charges for workmen travelling on the railways, houses for working men are not being built to the extent that they ought to be outside the Metropolis. Many of the Railway Companies have recognised the fact that workmen's trains do pay while running at a lower figure than the statutory 1d. a mile; and something is being done even now to give workmen an opportunity of breathing fresh air and; enjoying the country. But the object of the Bill is to fix a maximum charge, and it is better for Parliament to do this than, the Board of Trade. The Bill would not be required if the Board of Trade would fix a maximum charge on its own account. Wage-earners are bound to regard railway fares as so much added to rent. If the workers in London could be carried a little further a field, as they might easily be in a very short time, they would be enabled to live under much more healthy and pleasant conditions than they do at present. The Bill does not take away from the Board of Trade any of its present powers. From having looked thoroughly into the figures. I am convinced that a return fare of one halfpenny a mile is a remunerative one to the companies. Indeed, this was demonstrated by a speech of the Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, in which he stated that the 2d. return fares between Enfield and London—10½ miles the single journey—paid the company when the trains were filled. This Bill fixes a maximum which would, allow 5½d. to be charged for such a distance as that which is found to be remunerative at 2d. When one goes over a block of workmen's dwellings and sees the height some poor creatures have to climb in order to reach their rooms, one cannot but wish they were nearer the ground, as they might be in the country with those little gardens which are of such an advantage. But it is only with the cooperation of the Railway Companies they can be carried out of London. No doubt the President of the Board of Trade has at heart the interests of these poor people; but he must also have regard to the interests of the Railway Companies; and, therefore, if the House fixes the maximum fares at certain hours, we may see a greater development of cheap trains, which the working classes are petitioning for in large numbers, one petition presented to-day having 2,000 signatures attached to it. I second the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.

(7.32.) SIR J. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

Although I am a Railway Director, I am not a Director of any Metropolitan Railway affected by this Bill. It is a philanthropic Bill on the face of it; but if you examine it you find that it is an example of a nice, easy, and cheap way of doing good, after the manner of A saying that B ought to hand something over to C. Hon. Members think it is a very nice thing to get something out of the Metropolitan Railway Companies for the good of their constituents, but I think the effect of this proposal will be that instead of giving them something, they will take away from them privileges they already have. The Bill as I read it will give the power to take away a privilege that is now possessed, for it will enable the Great Eastern Railway Company to charge 5½d.where they now charge 2d. for carrying class traffic to Enfield. The hon. Member has mentioned these trains by which passengers are carried 21 miles for 2d., but he proposes by this Bill that the companies shall all have power for that distance which is now charged 2d. by the Great Eastern Company to charge 5½d. The Board of Trade has at this moment power to regulate such traffic, and such——


No, the Great Eastern Company have to run those trains under statutory enactment; they are workmen's trains run under certain conditions imposed when the company obtained their Act for the Liverpool Street station, and they cannot be altered.


I am aware of the special provision inserted in that Act. Let me tell the House what is the actual position of these Metropolitan lines. This Bill would lay down a hard and fast line for all Railway Companies as to maximum fares before and after certain hours. Under present arrangements, the remission of passenger duty to the companies depends upon their running workmen's trains after 6 p.m. and before 8 a.m. Now, irrespective of what any of the companies have done or are doing, the evening hour is to be changed to 5 o'clock. If this takes anything from the Railway Companies, the Bill makes no provision for supplying the abstraction out of these fares. But the supporters of the Bill pretend that it will be for the advantage of the companies, but surely the House can leave the Railway Companies to look after themselves? I think I can show that the Railway Companies have been able to do this while they do carry on a cheap and speedy traffic in the interest of the working classes. If any thing is taken from the companies it will simply be off the net earnings of the companies over and above the present working expenses. The existing Act of 1883 has established an arrangement by which when a company goes to the Board of Trade to obtain some remission from the passenger duty the Board of Trade says—"Yes, we are quite ready to take off a portion of the duty, provided you take off something from your fares and facilitate the carriage of the working classes to and from the country." These trains arrive in London before 8 and leave after 6 in the evening. This Bill says the return trains are to be run after 5 p.m.—an hour when very few working men can, under the present hours of employment, reach the stations. That is the very time at which the rolling stock of the companies is taxed to the utmost at present, and it will be impossible for them to find carriages, and opportunity for running additional trains. If cheap trains are run at 5 o'clock it will be impossible for the companies to distinguish between the working classes and other classes, and people who now pay ordinary fares will use the workman's train. There is not so mush objection to the farthing a mile fare as there is to the inconvenience occasioned. Possibly the trains might pay the companies, but everything would be disarranged by the congestion of the traffic, and there would be more blocks than Members know now occur on the Metropolitan lines at that hour. The powers of the Board of Trade are now ample. The Board has the power to take away all remission of duty from a company if the company does not comply with the Board's behest, and run sufficient workmen's trains at such fares and at such times before 8 and after 6 as to the Board of Trade may appear reasonable. The circumstances of each line vary, the geographical conditions vary, gradients differ, and the powers of working traffic are dissimilar. Parliament has, therefore, vested discretion in the Board of Trade. But the Bill proposes to take out of the hands of the Board of Trade this power that has been so carefully and usefully exercised. The hon. Member would deprive the working classes of the means of obtaining that consideration through the Board of Trade which they now possess. The Bill will subject the companies to the greatest inconvenience, not for the sake of bonâ fide working men, but for the sake of the class above them who are able to leave business at 5 o'clock and at 12 o'clock on Saturdays. If the companies do not run the trains that are required, there is at present the power of complaining to the Board of Trade. As far as I can find out, after extensive inquiries, few or no complaints have been made to the Board of Trade, and I therefore regard this proposed legislation as perfectly gratuitous, and unlikely to do any service to the working classes. The number of passengers carried last year in the workmen's trains by the various Metropolitan Companies is as follows:—The East London, 69,000; the Great Eastern, 6,100,000; the Great Northern, 1,400,000; the Great Western, 647,000; the North Western, 114,000; the North London, 470,000; the London, Chatham and Dover, 1,477,000; the Tilbury and Southend, 557,000; the Metropolitan, 1,670,000; the Metropolitan District, 800,000; and the Midland, 500,000. In addition many of these Companies issue cheap weekly return tickets. I think these figures show that the legislation of 1883 has been eminently successful. The Railway Companies have satisfied the legitimate demands of the working classes in the neighbourhood of London, and their only difficulty now is that their stations are too small for the enormously increasing traffic. There has not been, so far as I am aware, a single reference to the Board of Trade or the Railway Commission in respect to the power the Board and the Commissioners have of taking away by certificate remissions of Passenger Duty. There is no difficulty or expense in putting the Board of Trade in motion; it is simply a matter of complaint which is at once investigated at the public expense. The companies have given the travellers before 8 and after 6 cheap fares, and in many thousands of cases these are not the working classes only, but for residents who take advantage of the cheap fares to go to London. I may just observe that the London County Council may, as a representative body, be supposed to know the requirements of those they represent, and they propose that the present time should remain unaltered. I hope the House will refuse a Second Reading to the Bill which will give no advantages to the public beyond those they can now secure, while it will be most unjust to the companies who have done so much, to meet the requirements of the working class traffic in the suburbs of London.

(7.50.) SIR H. TYLER (Great Yarmouth)

It is quite true that, as the hon. Baronet opposite has stated, that the Great Eastern Company carried last year some 6,000,000 of passengers from Enfield and intermediate stations to London and back at the maximum fare of 2d., and I may add that there is no Metropolitan service carried out with more punctuality than this workmen's traffic, which begins at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning, continues until 8, and returns after 5 in the evening. The Great Eastern Company are now enlarging their Liverpool Street Station, and are spending £1,500,000 on this work and on the approaches from various directions, including the provision of special platforms for this workmen traffic. I think I may fairly claim for the Great Eastern Company that they have done their duty towards, and much to encourage, the working class traffic. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill has, as I understood him, admitted there is no reason for the Bill by admitting that the Railway Companies have done so much to meet the object he desires to secure. That is to a great extent the case. The Act of 1883 was a compromise, there was a great deal of discussion over it, and the result arrived at was a compromise between the demand of those who advocated cheap trains and the views of the Railway Companies. But there appears to be no finality in these matters, The greater the exertions a Railway Company may make in the interests of the public the more is demanded. Already the Great Eastern Railway have done much more than they were compelled to do; and it is discouraging, under these circumstances, to be continually met with fresh legislation. I must say, in regard to what passed earlier in the evening, that there are Railway Directors who act more strongly in the interest of the working classes than the so-called Labour Members. There are Railway Directors who are just as anxious for the welfare of their servants as the Labour Representatives, and who actually do more for their welfare than those who make so much noise about the matter. I do not think that the Bill will benefit the community, as it provides for the companies charging higher fares than they are actually charging now; it is unfair to the companies who have done so much, it discourages further efforts in the same direction, and I hope the House will reject the Motion for Second Reading.

(7.55.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

The hon. Member who has just spoken made a very emphatic statement that he, as a Railway Director, in common with many Railway Directors, was very much more sincere in the desire to benefit the travelling public than the so-called Labour Representatives.


I did not say more sincere.


Did more for them—that is sufficient for the purpose of my argument. The hon. Gentleman then went on to prove his sincerity by opposing the Bill.


I said nothing about sincerity.


I am not putting the word into the mouth of the hon. Member, I simply say that he went on to show his sincerity by opposing the Bill. But, I proceed to say a few words upon the Bill itself. I am not quite sure that the Bill if passed would be of great advantage to the working classes of the Metropolis. It is not at all clear that in some instances it would not lead to an increase of fares on some suburban lines. But the workmen on some lines do travel under considerable difficulty by these cheap trains, and I am inclined to think that the subject is of such importance that it might well be submitted to the investigation of a Select Committee. There is an absolute necessity for some better provision than now exists for the conveyance of working men into and out of London, and this is evident to anybody who knows anything of the requirements of our working class population in London. A very pressing reason is found in the increasing rentals the poor have to pay for miserable house accommodation. Notwithstanding the philanthropic efforts of individuals and public bodies to supply the demands for cheap and healthy dwellings, the rents are advancing year by year, and, of course, to travel out of town means adding the fare to the amount of the rent. A very important consideration is the health of a man's family. I believe it is found to be a fact that when a man leaves the country and settles in London, in two or three generations the children become stunted in size, and their health becomes more feeble. To some extent the demand has been met by some of our Railway Companies, but it has been met in a very grudging spirit. The people who come in by the early trains in the morning are brought in at a cheap rate by Companies who, some of them, fix the hour of departure and arrival in the Metropolis at the most inconvenient periods in the 24 hours. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pease) stated that it was not only workmen who travel by the workmen's trains. Well, any hon. Member who chooses to go to a railway terminus in London at, 6 o'clock in the morning can judge for himself whether the workmen's trains are filled with workmen or not. No one, unless he were absolutely compelled, would think of getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning—and it is necessary in order to catch these trains to get up at that hour.


I did not say that workmen did not very largely use these trains, but that others besides workmen availed themselves of them, and that a great many ordinary passengers would wait for them in the evening, if the hour was altered to 5 o'clock, and in that way cause a congestion of traffic.


The hon. Baronet said that a percentage of people who travelled by these trains after 5 o'clock in the evening were not workmen at all. No doubt there is such a percentage, but I believe it is an exceedingly small one and not worth bothering about. The people who travel by these trains, as a rule, are packed like herrings in a barrel. The carriages are so full that the unfortunate travellers are nearly suffocated. I have had to travel by these trains myself, and can, therefore, bear testimony to these facts—though I should be sorry to be the means of tempting any Member of this House to get into a compartment containing 12, 14, or even 16 passengers. No person who can afford to pay the ordinary fare would think of travelling by the workmen's trains, because of the way the workmen are treated by the Railway Companies. If we are to tempt the working classes to live out of London under those healthier conditions that we are all so desirous of seeing applied to this class of people, the Railway Companies will have to provide a larger number of trains, and trains running a little later in the morning. That is one of the difficulties that would have to be surmounted, and I think if the Railway Companies were approached in the matter, and there were some uniform rule laid down by some authority, that the companies could be induced to overcome the difficulty, and to meet the working classes in a spirit of equity and fair play. In reply to the argument of the hon. Baronet, it occurs to me that if there is a percentage of travellers by these workmen's trains who are not workmen, that if the companies gave increased facilities to third-class passengers they would cease to travel by these trains. Possibly there is a percentage of travellers by these trains—who do not work with their hands. There are hundreds and thousands of clerks in the Metropolis who receive salaries somewhat above those of the ordinary day labourer and artizan, and whom we should be anxious to assist in the direction the Bill indicates. They are people who cannot afford to take first-class season tickets. They would gladly live out of London in the pure air if facilities were granted them by the Railway Companies. There are a few Railway Companies who grant third-class season tickets, and I think the system is found to be attended with very satisfactory results. If all the Companies would adopt the system, they would find their dividends largely increase, for after all it is the third-class passenger who is the most profitable to the Railway Company. Any one who travels on our great Metropolitan trunk lines must have observed that generally the third-class carriages are packed so that the passengers can hardly breathe, that the second-class carriages have very few in them, and that the first-class carriages are almost empty. Why then should not the companies be compelled to grant third-class return tickets to those who desire to avail themselves of them? Even if they did, it would be found that much more would be paid in proportion by the third-class season ticket holders than by those holding first and second-class season tickets. It has been stated that the first-class season ticket holders, who travel between London and Brighton, do so at the rate of a farthing a mile, whereas the third-class passengers are only permitted to travel at the rate of 1d. per mile. I cannot for the life of me imagine how such a state of things can be allowed to continue by a sensible body of men, even from a pecuniary point of view. If the companies were compelled to grant these third-class season tickets, I think the third-class travellers who cannot be described as workmen, would cease to use the workmen's trains and would gladly avail themselves of the season tickets. This question is so important to hundreds of thousands of people in the Metropolis, and to the shareholders of the Railway Companies, that I think it would be worth while to wait a little. I hope the promoters of the Bill are not too anxious to press their views on the House just now, but will be willing to receive evidence and have it presented to the House, so that later on we may legislate in a much clearer atmosphere than that we are in at present. I, therefore, submit that the best thing we can do is to refer this Bill to a Select Committee in order to see whether some measure can be framed which will be satisfactory at once to the public and to the shareholders. (8.10.)

(8.35.) MR. BAUMANN (Camberwell, Peckham)

As my name is on the back of this Bill, and as the subject is one in which I feel a good deal of interest, I desire to say a few words in support of the measure. The hon. Baronet who spoke from the opposite Benches, but who has lately left the House, has stated that we Metropolitan Members want to get something out of the Railway Companies for the benefit of our constituents. In one sense that is true. We consider that as the Railway Companies enjoy large privileges they ought in return to pay something in the nature of a toll to the public, and that they ought to be compelled to make certain arrangements for the convenience of the very large number of working men who are at the present moment obliged to live in the outlying parts of the Metropolis. The hon. Baronet spoke of the matter in the true spirit of a Railway Director. He said we want to take the regulation of cheap traffic out of the hands of the Board of Trade. That also is partially, but not wholly, true; because, by the ninth clause of the Bill, we still leave in the hands of the Board of Trade the power to vary or rescind any Order they may see fit to deal with under the Act. I certainly think we ought to take the question of cheap traffic out of the hands of the Board of Trade, and for this reason. The Cheap Trains Act of 1883 has not been altogether a dead letter—I am far from saying that—but, on the other hand, it is quite true that the Board of Trade has not acted so often nor so energetically as it might have done in the direction of compelling the companies to run a sufficient number of workmen's trains in and out of London. A year or two ago I presented a Petition from a large body of my constituents, praying the Board of Trade, under the Act of 1883, to cause an inquiry to be made as to the reason why the London, Chatham, and Dover Rail way Company did not run more work men's trains, and, if possible, to make an order on that company to remedy this Well, Sir, I do not know what the Board of Trade did with that Petition but I know that I have never heard a word about it from that day to this and I am also aware that the number of workmen's trains run by that company is not large enough to satisfy my constituents. I give this as one of the reasons why the matter should be taken out of the hands of the Board of Trade, who are sluggish, and ought to put a little more pressure on the Railway Companies. The question before us is: Are the railway facilities for the convenience of workmen at the present time sufficient, having regard to what the population of London? I maintain that they are not. Doubtless, all the companies who run trains into London were as liberal as the Great Eastern Company we should have no occasion to complain, because that company runs no fewer than 49 workmen's trains in and out of London. But their example is by no means followed by the other companies. For instance, the Great Northern Railway Company run only six, and the Great Western Company none. I am, however, informed by an hon. Friend of mine who is a Director of he Great Western Company that they do run workmen's trains over the metals of the Metropolitan and District Railways, and that these are included in the latter's return; so that it is not, perhaps, fair to say that the Great Western Company run no workmen's trains. Then, I find that the North Western Company run only five workmen's trains, and the Midland Company only one, and that at 5 o'clock in the morning, arriving in London at 5.33. My old friend the South Eastern Railway Company, runs only six trains a day. The London, Tilbury, and Southend, running from Barking to Fenchurch Street and through the districts in which are resident great numbers of the middle and working classes, only run four workmen's trains. I do not think it is unreasonable to say that that is not a sufficient compliance with the Act of 1883. On the one hand the Railway companies have not done their duty, and on the other, the Board of Trade have been deficient in not compelling the companies to do their duty by exercising the power which they possess under the Act of 1883. I heartily support the Bill, and I hope it may be read a second time. The hon. Baronet opposite said there was no great desire or demand for this Bill. Though a Railway Director, the hon. Baronet represents a constituency remote from London, and he will, perhaps, allow that Metropolitan Members are better authorities than himself as to the wishes of Londoners on this subject. I can tell him that the working classes of London and neighbourhood are keenly interested in this Bill, and look forward to its passing with the greatest wishfulness, and with the certain belief that it will confer upon them a great boon. I agree with the hon. Member for Shoreditch that further evidence is required before the Bill becomes law, but the readiest way to obtain that evidence is to read the Bill a second time and refer it to a Select Committee.

(8.48.) SIR C. RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)

I see that the Bill is endorsed with the names of 10 Members of Parliament, and I certainly expected to find a Bill of more consequence than the present, and one which would actually do something effectual towards remedying the deficiencies which, I cordially agree with hon. Members opposite, really exist. I notice that a very scanty proportion of those hon. Members who endorsed the Bill mark their interest in it by being present to support it. I confess, also, that the speech of my hon. and learned Friend leads me to the conclusion that a great many of the hon. Members whose names are on the back of the Bill have not read it. Why am I afraid that the hon. and learned Member himself has not read it? Knowing his acuteness, I think he would not have made the speech—with which speech I thoroughly agree—had he read the Bill. Does the hon. Member observe that the Bill would not in the least assist him in obtaining redress for the constituency which he represents? There is not a single word in it to increase the number of trains to be forwarded. So far as my hon. and learned Friend has spoken of the insufficiency of the number of trains, and the deficient accommodation, I thoroughly agree with him. I very frequently travel by the North London and the Great Eastern, and I have always observed that the workmen's trains are exceedingly crowded, almost as many standing as have found seats in a compartment. The natural remedy for that is an increase in the number of trains. But this Bill will not move the subject one inch forward; it does not touch the point. I should be very sorry to oppose any effort in the direction of increasing the workmen's train accommodation, but this scheme which is put forward is exceedingly inadequate, and falls far short of the objects the promoters have in view. My hon. and learned Friend said the Board of Trade was lethargic. I would suggest that the proper remedy is to put pressure on the Board of Trade, which means the President of the Board of Trade in this House, or out of it, to give full effect to the power which Parliament has emphatically conferred upon the Department by Sub-section 2, Sec. 3, of the Act of 1883, to see that Railway Companies provide at such fares as the Board of Trade think reasonable sufficient railway accommodation for working men travelling to and from their work, as well as for their other passengers. Even the hon. Member for Dulwich pointed out that in one instance the Bill might have the effect of increasing the fare. While I wish joy to efforts which are effectually aimed at remedying the evils complained of, and while I do not wish to vote against this Bill, I am bound to observe that I think the measure deals with a very small part of the difficulty, and I greatly doubt whether it is worth the labour which has been bestowed upon it by the 10 Members whose names are on the back of the Bill, but who are not present here to support it.

(8.55.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,

(8.58.) MR. T. H. BOLTON

While this Bill will not do all that the working classes desire, it will do something in the direction of giving them cheaper trains at more convenient times than at present. Cheap fares would be of enormous advantage to a great number of persons who work in warehouses and factories—clerks and others besides working men—whose incomes are small, and who have to get to their business in the City in the morning, before 8 o'clock many of them, and leave about 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Baronet and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not quite realise the duties of Railway Companies to the public. In consideration of the monopoly they have they are bound to provide for the requirements of the public, and as those requirements increase, the Railway Companies must keep pace with them. It is admitted that under pressure certain companies are doing a good deal to meet the public requirements, and, surely, if further pressure were judiciously applied, other companies might be induced to follow their example. It is because this Bill extends the legislation of 1883 that I shall vote for the Second Reading. If the Board of Trade would vigorously put into force the powers it possesses, or, if necessary, come to the House for increased powers with which to protect the interests of the public, that possibly would be a more desirable way of dealing with this matter. It cannot, however, be hoped that the Board of Trade will take such steps without great pressure being brought to bear, and the best way of exercising such pressure is by the introduction of some such Bill as this. The Bill goes further than merely providing for the running of purely workmen's trains, and I agree it is desirable it should go further. It is of no use our talking of giving the working classes healthier dwellings and make the conditions of life more acceptable to them, unless we provide means whereby they may live outside London and in a purer and healthier atmosphere. That you can only make practical by having cheap trains, and cheap tramcars and other means of communication between the homes of the working classes and their places of employment. A suggestion has been made that the Bill shall go to a Committee, but I cannot help thinking that, as a preliminary to dealing with the question, whether the subject goes to a Committee or not it is desirable that the House should emphasise its opinion on this question by reading the Bill a second time, and thus affirming the principle not only of increasing the number of trains run at reduced fares, but also of providing additional accommodation for clerks and employés in warehouses whose duties make it necessary for them to reach the City at an early hour in the morning. This is a question eminently interesting to London Members, and one having a practical bearing on the condition of the people. It is not unfair to ask the Railway Companies, in consideration of the great privileges they enjoy, to meet the public in this matter. There has been no statement that the cheap trains run by the Great Eastern have not paid, or that they are not adequately patronised by the public, and I am confident that if other companies, under the stimulus of this Bill, try the experiment of running cheap trains they will have no cause to complain of lack of support. It has been suggested that the adoption of this Bill would have the disadvantage of putting up the fares in some cases; but the hon. Baronet who stated that surely has not read the Bill, for it only provides the fares shall not exceed a farthing per mile, whereas the present maximum is 1d.


The Bill of 1883 left this question in the hands of the Board of Trade.


If I thought the Board of Trade would fix a maximum of less than a farthing a mile I might be disposed to agree with the hon. Baronet, but there is nothing to prevent the Board of Trade fixing the maximum at even a fraction of a farthing. The fact is that this argument of the hon. Baronet is a red herring drawn across the trail by those who are interested in defeating the Bill. These disinterested persons tell us they are doing everything they ought to do in this matter, and that interference would only make things worse, as it would discourage and dishearten them. But they will not thus frighten us. The Railway Companies, from a mistaken policy, are not very fond of these cheap fares. They must get over that sort of feeling; for the public will insist upon having their cheap trains. This Bill can do no harm; by reading it a second time the House will be affirming the principle that an improved service of cheap trains is required in the interests of the working classes and of the public generally, and I therefore hope it will be pressed to a Division.

(9.12.) MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)

No doubt the supply of workmen's trains on lines running into the Metropolis is miserably inadequate, but I am afraid the Bill does little to better that state of things. My hon. Friend trlked about compelling the Railway Companies to run trains at certain, hours—to enable men, for instance, to reach their places of employment by 8 o'clock in the morning, but may I point out that the Bill makes no alteration in the morning limit of time. It seems to me nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the present system of bringing men to London long before their hours of work commence, to leave them hanging about the streets, exposed to a great deal of temptation under conditions which few of us would like to face. I do not know why Railway Directors should oppose this Bill. It is a very small instalment of the obligation which will one day be placed upon them. We have listened with great pleasure to the glowing accounts given by my hon. Friend of the wealth and strength of the great Railway Companies, and he surely cannot after that expect Parliament will not impose somewhat more stringent conditions in the interests of those we look upon as needing legislative help. But I should like to point out that under the Act of 1883 the Board of Trade can do pretty well as it likes in these matters, and it should be left to the Railway Department to insist on the improvements that are so necessary. However, the object of this Bill is a good one, and I shall vote for the measure if it is only for its title. I am afraid that hon. Members will find there is not much else in it. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the congested state of the population in the central districts of London is a growing evil, and it is by the running of cheap trains that an effective remedy may be applied, for the working classes will thereby be enabled to live within reasonable distance of their employment, for reasonableness depends upon communications, in a purer atmosphere and in more comfortable homes.

(9.19.) MR. SOMERVELL (Ayr, &c.)

I feel disposed to vote against the Bill, merely on account of its title. I do not see why London should be dealt with specially in regard to cheap trains, why you should by legislation provide that within a radius of 12 miles around it trains should be run at a certain cheap rate. It may be the largest city in the Kingdom; but the workmen in other large towns are equally entitled with London workmen to cheap trains. The ground for the Bill, according to the memorandum attached to it, is that the Midland Railway run workmen's trains within 24 miles of London at one farthing a mile. That, according to the promoters of the Bill, is the reason why it ought to be provided that the maximum charge should only be a halfpenny a mile. The argument is a reductio ad absurdum. In the Memorandum accompanying this Bill the promoters show, not that there is a grievance to be remedied, but that the companies are at present doing more than the Bill calls upon them to do—I shall oppose such a parochial tinkering measure as this. Any measure dealing with railway fares ought to be a general measure, and rot confined to any particular district. This is an attempt on the part of the Metropolitan Members to secure a little cheap and spurious popularity with their constituents. But they will not show themselves to be the real friends of the working classes if they deal with this matter in a half-hearted way. As it is, you will be making the working men in the country generally pay for the running of cheap trains for the benefit of London workmen—I object to any such preference being given to Londoners. I reserve to myself the right of supporting any general measure in the interest of working men throughout the Kingdom, but I shall certainly vote against this Bill.

(9.26.) SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)

I think the hon. Member's speech shows that he is new to London and to this House. London stands in an altogether exceptional position, and many measures have been passed dealing with it specially, and not affecting in any way the other parts of the Kingdom. Frequently it has willingly been the corpus vile on which experiments have been tried. It is now desired to relieve the congested districts of London, and it is believed that the proposals of this Bill will have that effect, because it will enable the working classes to live out in the country. By fixing a maximum charge it does not prevent the Midland or any other company charging less. I have during the past few days been looking at the returns of railway traffic, and I find it is astonishing to note the increase in the number of third-class passengers. The companies mainly owe their prosperity to that class. It seems to me that the managers of suburban lines are forgetting that. The Brighton Railway, during the course of the year, took thousands of people to Brighton and back for half-a-crown. The fact is that the interests of the public are not opposed to those of the Railway Com- panies. The essence of success is first cheapness and then numbers, and if the companies desire to make this traffic successful let them run more trains at convenient hours. The speech of the hon. Member opposite is a most extraordinary one. He says he will not support the Bill unless its provisions apply to the whole country. Well I, for one, shall be content to do without his support. During the 18 years I have been in the House of Commons I have found that a common excuse for obstruction is the complaint that a Bill does not go far enough. We are, however, willing to accept a small and moderate measure as a step in advance, and therefore I hope the Government will support the Bill.

(9.30.) MR. LAFONE (Southwark, Bermondsey)

My Friend's excuse for opposing the Bill seems to me very much like that of an hon. Member who, when asked to support a Bill extending the electoral franchise to the police, refused because the franchise was not given to women. My hon. Friend declines to support this Bill because it applies only to London and not to the country generally. I would strongly urge the desirability of reading the Bill a second time. What the supporters of the measure want to do is to support the President of the Board of Trade by a decision of the House, so that he may take steps to extend the privileges which the labouring classes already enjoy. We know that among railway magnates a considerable odium attaches to the right hon. Gentleman by reason of his recent action in regard to railway rates. Well, we do not want to increase the difficulties of his position, and we therefore think the House should take upon itself the responsibility for these proposals by reading the Bill a second time. It is an enormous advantage to labouring men to get out of the crowded courts and alleys of the Metropolis. We have it on the evidence of a Director of the Great Eastern Railway Company that the Railway Companies can take the steps the Bill contemplates with profit to themselves, and I therefore hope we shall strengthen the hands of the President of the Board of Trade in, this matter.


I do not know whether I shall express a very unpopular opinion when I say that the tendency of the time to agglomerate people and factories and places of business into the great cities is really a public evil. I should very much prefer to see some of these places of business for workmen whom the Bill proposes to benefit located at some little distance from London, and therefore in purer air. Unfortunately, facts as they exist have to be dealt with, and Parliament endeavoured to deal with this subject in 1883. At that time, after full consideration by a Committee of the House, it was decided that the Railway Companies should be relieved of a considerable portion of the passenger duty which they then paid, and, in return, that they should be compelled to provide, by order of the Board of Trade or of the Railway Commissioners, further facilities for workmen's trains, for the conveyance of soldiers, and for third-class accommodation. That was certainly in the nature of a Parliamentary bargain with the Railway Companies, and it was a bargain of a very sweeping character. Nothing could be larger than the words of Section 3 of the Act of 1883, which declared that if at any time the Board of Trade had reason to believe that upon any railway carrying passengers proper trains were not provided for workmen at reasonable fares and at reasonable hours, then the Board of Trade might order such provision to be made. Nothing could be wider than that power and nothing could better establish the intention of Parliament that this matter should be dealt with in a comprehensive spirit throughout the country. I agree with my hon. Friend behind me that any principle which the House may establish for the Metropolis must also apply to other great centres of industry. The power of the Board of Trade being such as I have described, there is a question whether it has been wisely exercised. The Board has been accused of being lethargic in this matter. In the first place, the section I have referred to expressly indicates to the Board of Trade that they shall not initiate action themselves, but that it shall be suggested to them from outside, and I do not think it can be shown that any demand that has been made upon the Board of Trade by any sufficient authority for putting into force the provisions of the section has been neglected. I can quote instances in which the matter has been dealt with by the Board of Trade in communication with the Railway Companies to the great benefit of the public. In 1888 there was a case which had eventually to be brought before the Railway Commission, in which the Commissioners gave a decision which resulted in the provision of greater accommodation. It cannot, therefore, be fairly urged that the Board of Trade has neglected the duties imposed upon it by the Act. It appears from the report made by Major Marindin that while in 1883 there were 110 workmen's trains on the railways having termini in London, with a mileage of 763 miles, in 1890 the number of trains had increased to more than 700, with a mileage of 1,807 miles. These figures show that there has been a distinct progess since 1883. I do not say that the progress is sufficient, or that it is such as ought to satisfy us, for we have to bear in mind the circumstances of the Metropolis, with its growing area, its increasing rents, without any possibility of workmen obtaining accommodation near the places of their work, and also the atmosphere of the Metropolis, which every year is becoming more intolerable. Having regard to these circumstances, it is essential that not only such progress as I have described shall continue, but that it shall increase at a rapid rate. What the House has to decide is whether this Bill is adapted for this purpose or not. It has been said—and no doubt with truth—that in these times particularly the income of a Railway Company really depends upon the number of its passengers; but that statement has been made as if the number of passengers that can be carried was really illimitable. This is certainly not the fact, especially in the case of the lines which converge within 12 miles of the metropolitan termini. It is not only necessary to have regard to the convenience and safety of the workmen and others who wish to get to and fro within that distance of London; it is also necessary to think of the convenience and safety of that vast number of persons travelling up to London from long distances. It is impossible for the railways to carry with safety more than a certain number of trains during the 24 hours, and if it were attempted to include an excessive portion of those trains within the limits of the hours named in the Bill, the capacity of the lines would be overtaxed. Two years ago Parliament established the system of block-working; and as President of the Board of Trade it is my especial duty to insist on it as essential to safety for the public, and to see that no more trains are put upon the lines than can be safely carried. What will happen? Under the provisions of this Bill these workmen's tickets, instead of being available, as now, only between the hours of 6 o'clock in the evening and 8 o'clock in the morning, are to be available by any train departing from the terminus after 5 o'clock p.m. on ordinary week days, and after 12 o'clock noon on Saturdays. Five o'clock is the hour of all in the 24 on an ordinary day when there is the greatest amount of traffic, and the same may be said of the hours following 12 o'clock on Saturday. The Railway Companies, in order to cope with this increased traffic which the reduction of fares would be likely to produce, would have to increase their lines. Hon. Members may look upon this as a very simple affair, but it is not. It is a difficult and very costly thing for the Railway Companies to obtain the land and accommodation necessary for this purpose, and what the House is asked to do is to impose on the Railway Companies an enormous liability for such an extension of the lines. Although I have been lately described by Sir R. Moon as a confiscator of railway property, I think Railway Companies will have some right to complain if Parliament, while imposing this liability upon them, does not give them larger powers for the acquisition of the property which may be required to carry out that liability. If we once allow Railway Companies to obtain private property below its value we shall open up a much larger question. I hope the House will excuse me for dwelling on these matters. They seem to me, speaking I hope impartially between the Railway Companies and the public, and being anxious to do justice to one and the other, to be grave difficulties. What is the state of the law? As I have shown Parliament has given to the Board of Trade ample powers, which have been exercised by the Board of Trade so far as they have been demanded by the public within the bounds of possibility. It may be said that until recently it has not been the duty of any public body representing the Metropolis to bring its needs in this respect to the notice of the Board of Trade. That is no longer so. The London County Council have been blamed by my hon. Friend and others for not attending to the business which belongs to it. But that cannot be said of them in this case. They have taken this matter up, and it will be my desire and my duty to try and carry out the wishes of the County Council in such a matter. The question is whether the House will or will not be well advised in giving a Second Reading to this Bill. There is, I think, force in the suggestion that the Bill, as far as it goes, proceeds in a wrong direction. You have conferred unlimited powers on a Department of the State, and you can, if you choose, call that Department to account in this House for an inadequate exercise of those powers. You are called upon to limit those powers by fixing the fares to be charged at a certain sum. It may be quite true that the words "not exceeding that sum" are inserted in the Bill, but whatever the figure inserted in the Bill is, I am sure that it will be found in practice that there is a tendency for that figure to become established. I would, therefore, suggest, while admitting that the question is not a very large one so far as this Bill is concerned, it would be better not at present to proceed with the Bill, but to leave the question in the hands of the County Council, and to trust them to press it upon the Board of Trade. I think it will be admitted that I have not neglected these questions, and in dealing with this matter I can have no other desire but to increase the facilities of the working men of the Metropolis in going to or returning from their places of labour.

(9.54.) SIR E. WATKIN (Hythe)

I appear as the representative of those who first gave to workmen cheap means of communication between their homes and their work. I also represent another institution who first issued third class contract tickets for the benefit of the working people of London. I therefore do not appear before the House with any record against me in this matter. I claim to be the initiator of enterprises of this kind into which those who now come before the House as the friends of the working man have not put one 6d. We are all anxious to facilitate the transmission of labour to the places where it is employed, but I want to know whether this House is to be a regulator of the hours of labour in London. If it attempts any such thing it will be a great mistake, the usual relations of capital and labour will be seriously damaged, and great difficulties will be experienced. The President of the Board of Trade is right in thinking that the question ought to be more carefully considered. I personally have done everything I could to improve the means of communication available to the working classes, and I shall vote against the Bill because it will damage the circulation of labour.

(9.56.) MR. DIXON - HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)

While I sympathise with the object of the Bill, I cannot see why a 12 miles radius should have been fixed. My constituency is just outside that 12 miles radius, and a very large number of my constituents come into town every day. I cannot understand why a man, living 12½ miles out of London, should not have the advantage of cheap trains while a man living within 12 miles has such an advantage. The result will be that the congestion of London will be increased, because all the workmen will flock to places within the radius, and that will be detrimental to property beyond the radius. I am strongly of opinion that any Bill which creates such a difference ought not to pass, and, therefore, I shall record my vote against this measure.

(9.57.) The House divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 73.—(Div. List, No. 66.)