HC Deb 07 May 1891 vol 353 cc245-58


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

(3.10.) SIR A. BORTHWICK (Kensington, S.)

I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months. My objection to it is based upon the fact that we are threatened with an invasion of London by the Tramway Companies. No doubt tramways are, under some circumstances, useful and acceptable; but in the central part of a city like London, they may become not only inconvenient, but detrimental and dangerous to the ordinary traffic. It is proposed to carry this tramway over Westminster Bridge to Charing Cross Station; but allow me to remind the House that Westminster Bridge was never built to carry a tramway line, and that it is very much crowded with traffic already. Moreover, a tramway is constructed upon the crown of the causeway—the best part of the road—leaving the other traffic, fast and slow, to get on as best it can on the slope; and ordinary vehicles, in attempting to pass the slower traffic, often find their wheels wrenched and injured by catching in the tramway rails. It is proposed to carry this tramway line across Westminster Bridge and along the Thames Embankment to Charing Cross Station. I fail to see what reason there is for carrying it by that route. In the first place, on reaching the end of the bridge opposite to the House of Commons, it would heve to make a sharp turn at right angles. It would take possession of the very best part of the bridge, and would occupy that part of Bridge Street which is always crowded by people on their way to the penny steamboats. Let me ask what is the object of carrying a tramway from the bridge along the Embankment at all? What is it to do for the public? The great traffic of the Embankment is carried by the underground railway, and, so far, that railway has done its work very well. There is not a single omnibus running along the Embankment to compete with, and I fail to see that if the line is made it will afford any better means of getting to Charing Cross. But what I do see is that if this tramway once gets permission to cross Westminster Bridge it will not end at Charing Cross Station, but will find its way to Victoria Street. It is really a question whether by accepting this Bill we should sanction a through tramway system for the whole of the Metropolis. So far as the Embankment is concerned, the District Railway paid £200,000 for the privilege of passing beneath it, but this Tramway Company only proposes to pay a rent to the London County Council for the privilege of passing over it. No doubt the Bill is, to some extent, fathered by that august body; but I think that the Imperial Parliament should have some voice in the matter, and I trust that the House, by rejecting the Bill, will express its determination that the tramway system shall not be extended throughout the whole of London.

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

I beg to second the Amendment, and I do so principally on the ground that all the objections which can be offered to the measure on public grounds cannot probably be brought before a Select Committee. For instance, the question of the importance of this thoroughfare and the enormous amount of public money which has been spent upon it cannot be raised before a Committee, and I think we ought to hesitate before we allow a Tramway Company to take possession of the best thoroughfare in London, in order that they may realise a private profit from it. Then, again, the Petition against it from the District Railway Company, I am told, can only be heard upon its merits; the St. Stephen's Club also object to it, but they have been too late in presenting their Petition; and the curve which it is proposed to make at the end of Westminster Bridge is of such a character that the whole of the traffic which passes through Bridge Street will have to cross it at right angles. In addition, there is the traffic to and from the steamboats which will be endangered, and the safety of the people desiring to travel by them threatened, if this tramway is allowed to be made. The object of making the Embankment was to relieve the stress of the Strand traffic, and this tramway line will effectually destroy that advantage. Complaints are constantly made that the approaches to this House are congested; but this proposal will tend still further to block up the approaches. There is another strong point. Westminster Bridge was constructed by Mr. Page, but he was compelled to cut down his estimates, and was not allowed to spend more than a certain amount of money. The consequence was, that he had to lighten the archways, and the roads upon them, and I doubt whether the bridge will be able to stand the additional strain which it is proposed to put upon it. If the Bill passes, the whole of the traffic of North and South London may eventually pass over Westminster Bridge. I hope the House will not put the parties to the expense of appearing before a Committee, but will show that they have made up their mind upon a question of public policy, and that a magnificent thoroughfare like this will be preserved to the people of London, and the approaches to the House shall not be interfered with. The District Railway was not allowed to go under the Strand or any of the main thoroughfares, and the company were required to pay £200,000 to the Metropolitan Board of Works for the privilege of carrying the line under the Thames Embankment. It would, therefore, be most unfair to allow the London County Council, who are the successors of the Board of Works, and who have undertaken their responsibilities and liabilities, to concede for a small annual sum these extraordinary rights to a private Tramway Company.

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

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

(3.20.) MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)

I shall support the Amendment, unless the promoters of the measure are prepared to accept a proposal which has been made to them by the London County Council. There has been a decided expression of opinion throughout Europe and America that the limitation of the hours of labour by statutory enactment is desirable, and I think a proviso limiting the working hours of the company's servants to 10 per day should be inserted in this Bill. This view, I understand from Mr. Burns, a member of the Council, was taken by the London County Council, and if the House of Commons pass the Bill without such a proviso they would be acting in a manner directly opposite to the wishes of the London ratepayers. At present this company work their servants from 11 to 11½ hours per day, but their labour is spread over 16 hours. The company have volunteered to reduce the hours of labour to 11 hours; but taking into consideration the fact that they pay a dividend of 10 per cent., I think that the limit I propose is reasonable. Although I am most desirous that every facility should be afforded to the working classes for getting to their work, unless I receive an assurance that the company will limit the working hours to 10 per day, I shall certainly vote for the Amendment.

(3.27.) MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

The hon. Member who has just sat down is in favour of facilities being afforded to working men for getting to their work, but, nevertheless, he intends to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. Now, I know a good deal about the South London Tramway Company, and I am able to say that the assertion of the hon. Member that the hours of labour of the employés of this company extend to 16 is altogether inaccurate.


My statement was that they work for 11½ hours, but that the hours of labour are extended over 16.


Upon that fact I join issue with the hon. Member. He says, also, that the company pay a dividend of 10 per cent. Where has he got that information from? The fact is, that those who hold shares in the company have not received more than 3 or, at any rate, 4 per cent. The company in not agreeing to the stringent limit of hours, which some members of the County Council wished to impose on them, decline to be bound hand and foot by those who hold extreme views on this subject. It must not be forgotten that the labour of those who are employed in connection with tramway cars is by no means of a severe character. Let me ask what the opposition to the Bill is. The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir A. Borthwick) represents the West End Opposition to Tramways Extension Association, but the principal opponent to the Bill is the Chairman of the District Railway Company, and the manager of the company has addressed a letter to Members of the House against the Bill, the main point in the letter being that the proposed tramway extension would mutilate and disfigure Westminster Bridge and the Embankment, and interfere with the latter thoroughfare as a place for the use of private carriages. The other opponents of the Bill are the St. Stephen's Club. Where are the Local Authorities? If they object to the Bill we ought to hear them. It is not opposed by the London County Council, and I certainly fail to understand how the tramway can either mutilate or disfigure the bridge or the Embankment, and I would remind the House that tramways cross bridges in places other than London, and notably in the City of Dublin, where no disfigurement was thought of. I support the Bill in the interests of the mass of the citizens of London, and especially those who reside on the south side of the Thames, and whose safety is daily jeopardised by the dangerous terminus of the existing tramway near St. Thomas's Hospital. Were the tramway carried on by the Embankment to Charing Cross, not only would the safety of the public be provided for, but the terminus would be conveniently brought to a point adjacent to the railway there. I appeal to the House to pass the Bill in the interests of the 300,000 or 400,000 working men, women, and girls who have to come daily from the South to the West to reach the warehouses where they are employed.

(3.40.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

The hon, and learned Member who has just sat down has divided the opponents of the Bill into three classes— the West End Association for the Opposition of Tramway Extension, St. Stephen's Club, and the District Railway Company. I am not a member of the West End Association, I do not think I am likely to be admitted a member of the St. Stephen's Club, and, so far as the District Railway Company is concerned, I do not even know the name of its chairman. I oppose the Bill not as the member of any Association, Club, or Company, but simply as a citizen of London, believing that no case has been made out in its behalf. If I thought the Bill was seriously demanded for the convenience of the public, I should certainly not oppose it 5 but I join with my hon. Friend below me (Mr. C. Graham) in thinking that, as the promoters of the Bill decline to pay regard to the interests of their employés voluntarily, they should be required to do so compulsorily. At the same time, I trust that they will not be afforded the opportunity. The hon. Member who has just spoken ought to be familiar with the Thames Embankment, and the nature of the traffic upon it, and he ought to be aware that the Embankment is never fully occupied with traffic; and that if there was any real demand for the use of it, it would present a very different appearance from what it does. Personally, I know no form of locomotion more objectionable than the tramway system. It is noisy, in some respects it is inconvenient, and in every respect it would be a disfigurement to a beautiful thoroughfare like the Thames Embankment. In New York the Broadway is crowded with tramcars, and the wear and tear created by the use of them destroy the roadway, and prevent the use of hansom cabs.

An hon. MEMBER

Oh no.


The hon. Member cannot, I think, have been in New York.

An hon. MEMBER

Oh yes; more than you have.


Then I am sure he cannot have been there with his eyes open. I met the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. O. V. Morgan) in New York two months ago; he has probably been there twice as often as either the hon. Member or myself, and I am sure he will corroborate what I say as to the absence of hansom cabs. It is impossible to go for any distance in a hansom for less than 4s., and the reason is solely the wear and tear of the roads by the tramcars. I never knew any Englishman who did not pine to return to London after a residence of a month or two in New York. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] Then I wonder that the hon. Member, with such aspirations, did not stay there altogether. I ask the House to set its face steadily against these attempts to introduce the tramway system into the centre of London. London ought to be maintained as a comfortable place of residence, and certainly it will cease to be so if this noisy tramcar system is to be introduced all over the Metropolis. I do not think the working classes demand this extension. Most of them go up Stamford Street, and if they want to cross the bridge they can find plenty of halfpenny omnibuses to take them.

(3.45.) MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)

I think the House would be ill-advised if they were to reject the Bill because the promoters do not assent to a curtailment of the hours of labour of their servants. Surely that is a point which might form the subject of an Instruction to the Committee, and therefore I hope the House will allow the Bill to go before a Select Committee, where all the points, both for and against it, can be thoroughly threshed out. The opponents say that there is too much traffic already on Westminster Bridge, but one of the reasons why we are asked not to allow an extension to the Embankment is that there is very little traffic there at all. My own opinion is, that there is no thoroughfare in the Metropolis more fitted for traffic of this kind than the Thames Embankment. I should certainly prefer to see the Embankment used to the utmost instead of being deserted, as it is said to be by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), so that the Members of the St. Stephen's Club might look out on an animated scene instead of an empty void. Why do thousands travel daily by trams from Greenwich, New Cross, Camberwell, Peckham, Wandsworth, Clapham, Newington, Tooting, Balham, and Brixton to the southern end of Westminster Bridge? It is for the very purpose of crossing the bridge; and why should they not ride across the bridge, and thus be carried nearer to their work? The trams would be less obstruction on the bridge than the halfpenny omnibuses that are continually crossing it, with a few of the people who reach the bridge on the trams. The objections to the trams really come from Members whoroll in their gilded chariots, or Members who are preparing to do so. The people who ride on the trams up to the bridge do not care about the hon. Member for the Scotland Division and his anxiety about hansoms. The opposition to this Bill comes from hon. Members who object to the springs of their vehicles being injured by the tram lines. One hon. Member who is going to vote against the measure told me that in taking a certain drive in his carriage he had to pass over tram rails 32 times, and he was jolted very much. I should say that that was extremely good for his liver, but I would advise him, if he wishes to avoid the jolting, to have a ride in the tram, which would only cost him twopence, The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool says that he is not a Member of the St. Stephen's Club, but by his speech of this afternoon he has certainly qualified himself for admission to that Institution. I hope, therefore, shortly to welcome the hon, Member as a member of St. Stephen's Club.

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

If a Division is taken, I shall probably find myself in the same Lobby as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, but for a very different reason. The hon. Member has given his experience of the streets of New York, but the streets of New York were in a disgraceful condition long before the tramways were laid down in the Broadway. That, however, has really nothing whatever to do with the question of this tramway, and the chances are that the New York tramways would never have been constructed if it had not been for the abominable condition of the thoroughfares. While the hon. Member was addressing the House I asked myself what would have been his attitude upon this question if he had had an opportunity of voting upon the proposal 10 or 15 years ago. When a man is compelled to walk, or to ride in cheap conveyances, his sympathies are generally with the masses of the people; but it sometimes happens that if he can get the means to buy a horse — a high horse, and ride in the Row, even if he does occasionally tumble off—he changes his opinions, and regards tramways as vulgar conveyances, which ought not to be tolerated in the beautiful thoroughfares of the Metropolis. For my part, although I believe the extension of the tramways is very necessary I shall oppose the Bill, because the promoters have refused to accept the stipulation of the County Council as to the hours of labour being restricted to 10 per day. Every Member who has spoken representing constituencies on the South side of the Thames supports the Bill, and they do so because they know, even although they have no mandate from their constituents, that the extension of the tramway is absolutely required by the people they represent. The teeming population on the South side of the Thames is anxious to get over Westminster Bridge, at the foot of which it has been compelled to stop for the last 14 or 15 years, owing to the persistent opposition which has been offered to the extension of tramways. The desire of the people on the South of the Thames to cross the bridge, and down the Embankment, may be easily understood by anyone who has seen the congested state of the traffic on the other side of the bridge, and the tremendous rush which takes place there to fill the various trams as they arrive. Most of the people who come by the tramcars to the bridge from Camberwell, Brixton, Clapham, and other places, desire to get to the Strand and the centre of London, and they are, therefore, naturally anxious to be carried to a point much nearer to Charing Cross. But, unfortunately, the Tramway Company have thought fit to decline the healthy condition which the London County Council imposed, namely, that the hours of labour of the tramway servants should be reduced to 10 per day. I thank the County Council for having insisted upon such a wholesome provision, and I trust that it will not be long before the Tramway Company will accept it.

(3.57.) MR. H. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)

In my opinion, the tramways are at present a great obstruction to the traffic between Waterloo Station and Westminster Bridge, and if there is to be any alteration at all they ought to be put back rather than extended.

MR. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)

The reason of that obstruction is that the tram terminus is in the Westminster Bridge Road. The horses have to be taken out and the people have to descend from the cars. The obstruction would be greatly diminished if the trams crossed the bridge and went upon the Embankment. I trust the House will allow the Bill to be referred to a Committee. There is great difficulty and objection in discussing a Bill of this kind on the Second Reading in this House. For that reason alone, without entering into the merits of the question, I hope that the usual course will be followed in regard to it.

(4.0.) SIR H. SELWIN-IBBETSON (Essex, Epping)

I am certainly not opposed to tramways where they are properly applied, because I believe them to be of the greatest utility to the working classes, but I have heard the question before the House discussed on more than one occasion. The resistance that has always been offered to the crossing of Westminster Bridge by tramways is, I think, justified—first, by the fact that in so central a part of the Metropolis it would not confer much material advantage; and, secondly, by the fact that the enormous wheel traffic already going on would be dangerously complicated by the presence of tramcars, which would increase blocks in the narrow streets to a dangerous extent. These objections may not apply to the laying of tramways along the Embankment, but I oppose this scheme because it would be the thin edge of the wedge, and would soon lead to an application for powers to join such lines with the tramway system at the end of Victoria Street. That would result in a most in convenient obstruction of the traffic in the most crowded thoroughfares of the district, and for that reason I oppose the Bill. I should prefer the Bill to be dealt with by the House rather than by a Committee, because the question at issue is understood by every Member of the House.

(4.5.) GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.),

as their representative, said that the tradesmen of Westminster Bridge Road were opposed to the Bill, which greatly interfered with their trades. He had received one deputation from inhabitants of the other part of Lambeth whose trade was not affected. It should not be thought that the working man gained much advantage by the tramcars. He had been on Westminster Bridge to meet the working men in hundreds going to their work long before tramcars appeared on the scene. He should vote against the Bill.

(4.6.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

My right hon. Friend the Member for the Epping Division (Sir H. Selwin-Ibbetson) has suggested that the House is quite competent to vote on this question. I wish to point out that on many of the issues raised the House is not competent to come to a decision. The engineering question, the effect of the change of the terminus, and the feeling of the people of Lambeth on the Bill are all matters which a Committee alone can decide after hearing evidence. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down says that he represents the Westminster Bridge Road — a very extraordinary constituency indeed, but it is a question whether his opposition should or should not prevail. Whatever the opposition of the shopkeepers may be, it is a significant fact that the Vestry of Lambeth is in favour of the Bill. There is, however, one question which the House can entertain, and that is: Does it dislike tramways so strongly and utterly that it will not have them at all? There are many persons who have had that feeling, but the House has some reason for thinking that the conclusions arrived at in former years need revision, and that the case against tramways is not so strong as to require that the Bill should be rejected on the Second Reading. The experience of New York has been quoted; the case of Paris is still more instructive. Under the Empire tramcars were not allowed to pass beyond the Place de la Concorde, but after the fall of the Empire the tram lines were extended right across Paris, and the cars now run all about the Arc de Triomphe, down the Boulevard Sebastopol, past the Louvre to the Palais Royal. This shows that in Paris tramcars are not found to be that terrible inconvenience they are represented to be. The other questions raised—as to the beauty of the Metropolis and as to the Petition of the St. Stephen's Club—can well be disposed of when the Bill is referred to a Hybrid Committee. The Bill has also been opposed by hon. Members below the Opposition Gangway, on the ground that the Tramway Company promoting the Bill is a grave offender in regard to the hours of labour imposed on tramway employés. The passing of the Second Reading will not necessarily prevent that question from being considered separately. If it is true that the London County Council is putting severe conditions on the Tramway Company, the London County Council, without the assistance of the hon. Member for Lanark, may be left to take care of itself, as it is certainly powerful enough to do. I hope that the House will follow the usual course, and send the Bill to a Committee.

(4.10.) MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

I wish to call the attention of the House to what took place under almost identical circumstances in the year 1868. At that time a Bill, empowering a tramway to cross Westminster Bridge, was brought up for Second Reading. The House followed the usual course of declining to discuss Private Bills on the floor of the House, and the Bill was sent to a Select Committee. When it was reported by the Committee its rejection was moved, and Mr. Chichester Fortescue, then President of the Board of Trade, argued that the Motion was very unfair to the promoters of the Bill on the ground that if the House entertained such fundamental objections to the principle on which the Bill was based it ought to have availed itself of an earlier opportunity of giving effect to its views. Notwithstanding that appeal, the House by a majority rejected the Bill, and I hope that the House will now speak its mind in time and reject the present Bill.

(4.16.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I am not desirous of continuing this discussion because I am anxious that we should get to the usual interesting matters which occupy us from day to day; but I wish to point out that if we follow the suggestion of the right hon. Member for the Epping Division of Essex and were to take the question of the merits of the tramway out of the consideration of the Committee we should have a discussion which, would last all day. I think that those who wish some condition to be inserted in the Bill with regard to the hours of labour would make a mistake if they voted against the Bill; they should let the Bill go before a Committee, and if it comes back without some such, arrangement being made between the Promoters and the County Council they can vote against it on the Third Reading.

(4.18.) THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD,) Lancashire, S.W., Ormskirk

I do not intend to detain the House, but I wish to give a word of warning in reply to the remarks of the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney). He says that the County Council may be left to take care of their own interests in connection with the control of tramways. Now, having been Chairman of a public Company who have charge of 50 miles of tramways, I should like to give the House the result of my experience in that matter. In Liverpool, formerly a private company had the tramways, and they were under much more stringent obligations to maintain the roads in good order than are contained in this Bill. The company neglected their obligations, and, having failed to obtain an injunction, the Corporation were compelled to acquire the tramways. Now, we have only one Road Authority; we have spent £300,000 in laying tramways which are no obstruction to the streets; and we get a return of £30,000 a year, while the company is able to make 10 per cent. dividend as well. That result shows that Local Authorities should lay the tramways down themselves and lease them to the highest bidder. I would, therefore, recommend all Local Bodies in London not to part with the control of their roads; and I shall oppose the Bill on the ground that it hands over the control of the streets of London to a private company.

(4.23.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

spoke amid repeated calls for a Division, so that his remarks reached the Gallery in a very imperfect form. The hon. Member said: I think it is desirable that the tramways should be extended to every part of the Metropolis. My only objection to the Bill is that it contains no guarantee that there will be a limitation as to the existing hours of labour, but, having regard to the general utility of the measure and the reactionary and unreasoning objections which have been taken to it on the other side of the House, I think the best course would be to allow the Bill to be read a second time, and referred to the usual Committee, and to move an Instruction to that Committee that it take into consideration this question of hours of labour. On the 21st of April, and upon a subsequent occasion, the London County Council, on the recommendation of the Highways Committee, attached to their consent to the present Bill a proviso that the hours of labour of the servants employed by the Tramway Company should be reduced to 10. This stipulation the company have refused to accept, but I think the question is one which can be satisfactorily dealt with by a Committee upstairs.

(4.30.) The House divided:— Ayes 137; Noes 170.— (Div. List, No. 197.)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.