HC Deb 29 February 1892 vol 1 cc1466-90

Order for Second Reading read.

(3.11.) MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I will briefly allude to its objects. It is for the purpose of continuing the tramway lines across Westminster Bridge and along the Embankment as far as the bridge of the South Eastern Railway, near Charing Cross Station, and the object is to connect the tramway systems on the south with the north side of the river. There has been, as I will shortly show, very considerable demand for this tramway. Last year a Bill for constructing the line was promoted by the Tramway Company, but it was rejected in the House on the Second Reading stage. The Bill now, somewhat differing from the Bill then, is promoted by the London County Council itself. It appears to the Council that the circumstances of the case make it more properly the Authority to construct the line, inasmuch as the bridge and the Embankment are under its particular care by Act of Parliament. For this and for other reasons it has seemed desirable that the London County Council should construct the line. There are two portions of the line, the one I have described and a very small portion uniting the new line with the other London Tramway Companies lines, which come very near to the terminus of the South London Company, but as to this small portion of the line it is hardly worth while my speaking. The clauses of the Bill are in one respect very different from the ordinary clauses of a Tramway Bill. It is proposed that the Council shall have power to work the tramway itself if necessary, and I may say that that clause has been introduced into the Bill because if the tramway were to be constructed and the Tramway Company were not to lease it from the Council the line would be useless and the expenditure on construction wasted. It is not desired, however, by the London County Council to work the line, and an agreement between the Council and the South London Tramway Company has so far advanced that there is hope that an arrangement may be arrived at satisfactory to all parties for the working of the line by the Tramway Company, and if this agreement is arrived at then the clause for the making of the line by the London County Council will not be pressed. Negotiations for this agreement have advanced a considerable length; they have reached this stage: that whereas the London County Council ask £1,350 a year rental for the line from the South London Company, the Company is willing to give £1,000. That is the difference at issue, that and the question of rates, and these points surely may very fairly be settled by the Committee upstairs. If we are so near an agreement as that, it is hardly worth our while contemplating it falling through now. There was a clause in the Bill last year which caused great opposition, limiting the hours of servants to ten each day. There were many-Members who cordially agreed with the proposal, but objection was taken to it being introduced in a clause in an Act of Parliament. In the present case, the County Council are willing to make this a clause in the agreement with the Company subject to the approval of the proper Authorities. No doubt one of the points at issue before the Committee will be whether such a clause should be introduced or not into the agreement between the Council and the South London Tramway Company. That is a suitable point for decision upstairs, it, will take its place in the consideration of the agreement. The line is not proposed to be carried further than Charing Cross Bridge. The Lambeth Vestry, within whose district a considerable portion of the line lies, have signified their assent to the Bill. Now there come in one or two, objections that have been raised to the Bill and have been circulated among Members in papers which have reached my hands, and one of these documents emanates I believe, though it does not bear the statement on the face of it, from the District Railway Company. This document argues that this Company paid £200,000 for the privilege of passing under the Embankment, that it has stations at Westminster Bridge and also at Charing Cross, and that to run a tramway line along the Embankment is not fair to them. Upon this I beg to observe that the right to go under the Embankment was the right purchased, there was never a thought of a monopoly being conferred of a line of communication there, and the same objection, if it hold good, would equally apply to streets in almost any quarter of London, and I cannot for a moment think that the House will throw out the Bill on this ground. Then the same document objects to the London County Council embarking on a speculative undertaking involving risk of loss, the burden of which must fall on the ratepayers. Now, I have told the House how far the arrangement for working the line has gone, and it will be in the power of the House to estimate how far this is likely to throw speculative burdens on the ratepayers. But this is in no sense an extraordinary or novel undertaking. Local Authorities have laid down a very large proportion of the tramway lines in the country, and the London County Council are doing nothing speculative in this matter. Then there is a statement put forward that Westminster Bridge and the Embankment are thoroughfares peculiarly unsuitable for tramway lines. Now, Westminster Bridge is, as I am informed by engineers of the London County Council, one of the widest bridges crossing the Thames, and the Embankment is one of the widest drives in London, and if people are to travel by tramway this is, just one of the lines to be taken. It is said it will destroy Victoria Embankment as a carriage drive; but this cannot admit for a moment, seeing the width of the roadway, though, even if it did, let hon. Members observe the number of carriages driving along the Embankment for pleasure and compare the number with the crowds of working and middle class people passing by this route to and from the South of London. There is a very large number of people indeed, clerks, artisans, shop assistants, male and female, working men of all classes, compositors, and others, who live in the South of London, and whose employment brings them to Westminster Bridge to cross to the other side of the river. They have to make the journey in all weathers, in rain or snow or mud, and unfortunately these conditions predominate in London, and these unfortunate people have to go to office, shop, or warehouse, in wet clothes and wet feet, to their considerable discomfort and with risk of injury to their health. If the tramway were constructed over Westminster Bridge, to say nothing of going any further, it would bring these people right up to lines of omnibuses, and of course going on to Charing Cross would do still more, and the crossing the bridge would land the people where they could avail themselves of Westminster Bridge Station of the District Railway. These facts have been before the London County Council in a memorial signed by no less than 62,000 inhabitants and resident ratepayers in the South of London, and these are some of the reasons I lay before the House in favour of this undertaking. I have only one more matter to touch upon, and that is that in one of these opposing memorials which have been circulated among Members of the House it is stated that, the present Council being just about to quit office, it should not be allowed to commit its successor to this new departure. Well, the House has heard how very little of a new departure it is either in legislation or in the action of the London County Council itself, which has, as the House knows, resolved to take over a much more important piece of tramway than is now proposed to be made. But if the House throw out the Bill, if the Government should join with some of its supporters in the endeavour to throw out the Bill on the present occasion on the ground of objection I have just alluded to, then it will be a most extreme verification of what has been said on this side of the House—what has been predicted from this side of the House, not without full knowledge of the circumstances—that the deferring the County Council elections to March would have an exceedingly impeding effect on London legislation. If a Bill is not to pass because the Council is about to dissolve and its successor about to be elected, why then, for one whole year out of the three, will London progress and legislation for London and London people be absolutely arrested so far as the County Council is concerned. This question is of extreme importance to London people, and whatever points are at issue between the Council and the Company will be settled after the election by the chosen representatives of the people of London.

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

*(3.27.) SIR ALGERNON BORTHWICK (Kensington, S.)

I was extremely sorry to hear the closing remarks of the hon. Gentleman, because I am certain that in my own opposition to the Bill I am not moved by any political motives, and I am positive that Her Majesty's Government had nothing on earth to do with any such motive in postponing the County Council elections. I am equally certain that in opposition to the Bill I shall find support from the other side of the House. I need not follow the hon. Gentleman into detail of the various clauses, because these may very properly be dealt with by the Committee should the Bill ever reach that stage, but I ask the House to throw out the Bill positively. In the first place, it comes before us in a very shifty, broken form, and in the very statement we have just heard we find how inconclusive the arrangements are for the working of the Bill, and in the very statement put before us by the London County Council itself we read— The arrangement is so far complete that it will probably be ready for submission to the Council when it reassembles after the election if the Bill be read a second time. So we are to proceed on the hypothesis that if we pass the Bill, perhaps the London County Council may be able to entertain it after the new election. Then we ask if that is the case, seeing that the Bill was rejected only eight months ago, why are we troubled with the Bill again now; why not wait for the new Council to put it forward in a complete shape or a perfect form without taking any further steps? The hon. Gentleman has alluded to a certain amount of opposition from the Underground Railway Company, and that opposition appears to me perfectly natural. The Company paid £200,000 to the predecessors of the London County Council for the privilege of going under the Embankment, and, the Council having possessed themselves of this £200,000, now propose to run a line overground in opposition to the very persons from whom they derived this pecuniary benefit. But this is a matter which concerns the Railway Company, and is not the principal objection. The hon. Gentleman speaks of the Embankment as important as a means of traffic, and so it is of local traffic, but the hon. Gentleman will not tell me that the workmen, clerks, and others to whom he alludes have any business on the Embankment. They have no business, no work, no occupation there; they are not employed there. They travel long distances and they are dropped at various points. They do not all go to Lombard Street or to the City; they go to Regent Street and the City, and various places inside and outside the City, and, leaving the tramcars, are carried to their destination by the various lines of omnibuses which diverge in various directions in large numbers. I have counted six omnibuses in the minute passing my house, and excellent vehicles they are. I hope we shall have no comparison drawn to-day between these and "gilded chariots." They are excellent conveyances, and the ladies of London avail themselves of the omnibus service quite as much as do the working classes. The stream of omnibuses crosses the bridge and takes natural directions according to the requirements of the traffic right or left and carrying passengers long distances for a penny. But none of these omnibuses take the line of the Embankment. No, they follow the natural routes, and I maintain that it is fiction to say that if you had this tramway it would be of the slightest real use. It is intended only to land passengers at the foot of a gentle hill rising to Charing Cross; it does not go to the station even, but practically nowhere—among a lot of cabs, where. the terminus will cause an enormous amount of obstruction. It would cause the greatest amount of obstruction, too, on Westminster Bridge, where the roadway is only 53 feet wide. If you take 16 feet from the centre of the roadway you leave a very narrow margin for the traffic, which even now is often brought to a standstill. But the fact is, this proposal is the outcome of a long-standing endeavour on the part of Tramway Companies to capture the West End. For their own purposes they wish to have lines running through the West End of London. I am quite aware that the tramway system is of great public convenience in some parts of London, where the thoroughfares are suited to them, but as Lord Palmerston said, "Dirt is only matter in the wrong place," so tramways become an intolerable nuisance when introduced into the unsuitable narrow thoroughfares of the West End. The traffic at many points is blocked beyond endurance now very often We shall probably have to come to this House for powers to do something to relieve the congestion of traffic at Knightsbridge. Here and at such places as Hyde Park Corner, in spite of the admirable steering of the drivers of cabs and omnibuses, who with the utmost cleverness and forbearance avoid constant difficulties, there are blocks repeatedly; and if you introduce into the middle of such traffic fixed lines, you will effect the greatest amount of inconvenience and damage to the tradesmen in the West End, who find employment for those sempstresses and shop assistants to whom the hon. Member has referred, and if you ruin their trade you injure the very class on whose behalf the hon. Member urges this Bill. This I say on the question of tramways generally. For the last ten years attempts have been made to carry the tramway lines up such streets as Sloane Street, an impossible street for the purpose, and over and over again the project has been defeated. Now the attempt is made to get communication for the cars over Westminster Bridge, and I suppose in due time the attempt will be made to get up Parliament Street to connect with the northern branches of the lines. On these and other grounds I ask the House to reject the measure as one it is impossible to sanction.

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."

*(3.36.) MR. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)

My objection is that the real object is not stated in this Bill, that real object being to make a connection between the northern and southern tramway lines. If this is to be done, then let the proposition be made in an open, straightforward manner. There is no reason why the North and South Metropolitan Tramway System should not be connected, but let it be proposed in a Bill introduced for the purpose, and let us have some voice in the selection of the bridge over which the traffic is to go. The last bridge to select would be Westminster. It is inconvenient, and the bridge is unsuited for such traffic. I have seen the plans of the bridge, and have consulted engineers, who tell me the construction is unfitted for such traffic. The crown of the arches is elliptical and unfitted to bear the heavy traffic in the centre of the road. The bridge was built to accommodate lines of slow, heavy traffic on either side and the quicker traffic in the middle; but if the tramway takes 16 feet from the centre of the road-way it will be impossible to accommodate two streams of traffic on either side. The power is also proposed to be taken to close a portion of the bridge for a certain time pending construction of the line, but meantime what is to become of the traffic? The Embankment was constructed at a great expenditure of public money for a specific purpose, to relieve the traffic flowing east and west by the Strand then so often blocked. But if this tramway is sanctioned on the Embankment, the effect will be to drive traffic back again to the Strand, for it will be impossible to use the Embankment for carriages. Nothing owners and drivers of carriages dislike more than the twisting of their wheels by the tramway metals, and, equally with the public vehicles, carriages have a right to the use of the roads, for all pay rates. It is evident, also, that something more than horse cars is contemplated, for the Bill includes a clause for regulating the smoke from engines. Will that not prevent all other traffic? Will anyone care to drive along the Embankment passed by puffing engines every two minutes? With regard to the District Railway, undoubtedly it is right that the Company should have a voice in this matter. I was twitted last year with holding a brief for the District Railway Company, though I did nothing of the kind, as I have no connection with that line except as a passenger. But I think, if a public body gives £200,000 towards a public improvement, and directly that is made all the profit is to be taken away by competition promoted by the Local Authority, that is scarcely likely to encourage public bodies to assist municipal improvements in the future. Well, the Bill was thrown out last year by a decisive majority, and I hope the House will not stultify itself by accepting this proposal from a defunct County Council—a proposal which we do not know that the new Council will carry out. It may well be that the new Council may think it has quite enough in hand without entering upon other undertakings. I certainly think such a Bill as this should wait for the opinion of the new Council, and if the Bill is for the purpose of effecting a junction between the northern and southern tramway systems, this is not the bridge for the purpose, because the lines do not come up to the bridge on both sides of the river.

(3.43.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

I have listened with attention to the two speeches made against this Bill, and I fear they are of the class we have long been accustomed to as used against anything like a development of popular traffic. I have failed to recognise one argument or reason against the passing of the Bill. I was astounded to hear the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir Algernon Borthwick) argue that the other side of the bridge would not be more inconvenient as a terminus than the end of Villiers Street. You have a dense industrial population coming daily from Brixton, Peckham, and the southern suburbs to employment on the other side of the river, and crossing Westminster Bridge and turning northward many of these people will, by the line indicated in the Bill, be brought within reasonable distance of their place of employment. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment admits the desirability of connecting the northern and southern tramway systems, but where would he begin his operations for the purpose if not at Westminster Bridge?


There is no tramway system with which to make a junction on the north side of Westminster Bridge.


No; there is not, I admit that; but will the hon. Gentleman say that he would not equally oppose a plan to carry the northern system over Blackfriars Bridge by way of Farringdon Street? Would there not be exactly the same District Railway monopoly opposition as we meet with now? Am I to suppose the hon. Gentleman would be prepared to endorse a scheme of that kind for crossing Blackfriars Bridge?


That is not the question before us now.


Just now the hon. Member said there was no reason why the two systems should not be connected, but he objected that there is no connection on the northern side of the bridge, then I ask him would he oppose a plan where the connection could be made at Blackfriars, and he evades the answer. Of course we should meet with the same opposition. I thought I heard the whole of the opposition when I heard of the carriage wheels. We have heard of this skidding of carriage wheels many times. I admit of course, the equal right of carriages to the use of the roadways, but I deny the right of the owners of carriages to exclude the public conveyances carrying thousands where the carriages carry units. With the argument on behalf of the railway monopoly I need not deal; it is not an argument against the Second Reading of this Bill. The thoroughfare through which the proposed line will run is a wide one, the terminus is a useful one as landing passengers within easy walking distance of the Strand. I am not afraid of another argument which has not to-day been used, that it will spoil the Embankment. I desire to see the cars running along the Embankment, giving the industrial classes the benefit of a ride by the side of the river on a summer's evening for a penny, just as the industrial classes in Paris can ride along the Boulevard des Italiens. (Several hon. MEMBERS: No, no; that is not so.) Yes; I have done it myself—or I should say the Rue de (No, no.) At all events, I desire to see the industrial classes of London able to travel cheaply by the side of the Thames as the people in Paris do by the Seine. I hope that omnibuses may adopt the idea of going along the Embankment. I know of no reason why they should not. What reason is there for opposing this Bill? There is a dense industrial population dwelling at a considerable distance from their employment, and they have to take a public conveyance. But in bad weather they get wet through, having to cross the bridge on foot, and they have to continue their work during the day, and I, from experience, know what it is in wet clothes or with wet feet. I hope hon. Gentlemen will withdraw this opposition, for I can tell them there is only one opinion upon it outside. It may be bias on the part of the people, but it is regarded as class opposition from those who do not themselves need this means of conveyance.

(3.51.) MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

I base my opposition on grounds quite other than those which have already been advanced, though I concur in what has been said by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. My main ground of objection is that this Bill is promoted by the London County Council. ("Hear, hear!") I expected that cheer, but I am not at all afraid to announce at the outset of my observations the ground upon which I make them. I hope to show the House before I have done, and in a few minutes, that this Bill is the thin end of the wedge for proposals which, if carried to their logical conclusion, will be of a colossal description, involving London in Socialistic experiments for extracting capital from the pockets of those ratepayers who have it and turning it into the pockets of those who have not—to be repaid Heaven knows when. Let me draw attention to Clause 27 in the Bill, which provides that if the Council carries on the undertaking at a loss, then this loss shall be borne by the ratepayers. Not without reason has this clause contemplating a deficiency been introduced. A few weeks ago we had announced to us from public platforms in London what is called the London programme of the Progressists—-programmes are fashionable just now—and the programme has attracted some attention. One speech in particular attracted my attention. It was suggested by one speaker, Why should not tramways be taken up by Municipalities and worked even at a loss to the ratepayers in order to accommodate what are called the toiling thousands, although those who would be made to pay are probably as great or greater toilers than they. The votes of these thousands are what is aimed at. That is the principle of which this, I say, is the thin end of the wedge, the first communication in the House, and I ask the House to pause before sanctioning such a principle as that. At another meeting in my constituency, one of the largest divisions in London, this principle was boldly announced by a well-known Socialist representative of his friends on the London County Council, and I suppose, to give it an extra touch of satire, it was said under the portals of the Local Board of Works. Working men in attendance were strongly recommended to organise and to use their votes, first of all, for getting on to the vestry and Local Boards, then on to the Council, and then, by the help of their fellows, into Parliament. For what? To control contracts for labour in London, to organise that labour for the purpose of appointing their own foremen, of fixing their own rate of wages, called a fair rate, but anyhow fixed arbitrarily, by those taking the wages and managed by the exercise of the labour vote, to fix their own hours of labour, or, as it might more properly be called, of non-labour. (Cries of "Question!") I am strictly keeping to the question, for I am proceeding to show that the Bill is simply a first enunciation before Parliament for carrying into effect this doctrine laid down out-of-doors by the party promoting this Bill. These are the principles underlying the proposals in the Bill. If the Bill passes authorising the construction of one tramway, the precedent will be set and the House will be asked, if one why not ten, if ten why not all tramways? But the programme is not confined to tramways: it is to extend to docks and other undertakings, and the organisation is to extend to the vast army of labourers in this great Metropolis. Having made the London County Council the largest employer of labour in the Metropolis, and presumably in the country, those who secure the employment will, of course, expect the gratitude of this vast army of labourers and their votes to secure Socialistic domination over the whole of society, and over those whom Socialists call the people living at their ease, but whose work in most instances extends over many more hours than the limit labourers fix. Therefore I oppose this Bill. This proposal was rejected last year. The principle has often been affirmed that the State should not compete with private enterprise. The principle on which this Bill turns is of a much further reaching character than any mere question of whether or not this little tramway should be made. By Clause 24 the County Council seeks running powers over the whole of the two largest tramways in London—the London Tramways Company and the South London Tramways Company—and to work over and use them on such terms and conditions as, failing agreement, shall be settled by arbitration. The Parliamentary agents who are supporting the Bill say that it is not intended by the Council to work the lines themselves, but to enter into an agreement with a Tramways Company. But I object to private agreements made by Committees of the London County Council behind the back of this House, and smuggled through by a Bill of this kind. The Council would, under that clause, require an army of labourers, inspectors, conductors, and paymasters, and if there were any loss on the working the ratepayers would have to meet the charge. Clause 26 is a very necessary one, if the principle of the Bill be sanctioned, for in it the Council asks for power to spend on capital account, whatever that may mean in County Council finance. But it is not to remain capital; the ratepayers are to repay it, as if it were a loan, in 60 years. Why should they not raise a million if they are to be the promoters and financial agents of this vast Metropolis, with power to drag, by compulsory powers, out of the pockets of the ratepayers enough money to create industrial undertakings of this kind, and carry them on in competition with private owners? If the County Council, which was to be the Superviser of the working of tramways, is to be a tramway owner itself, what kind of impartiality will they exercise? If this line is to be made at all, it is well known to commercial men that not only could it be done without charging the ratepayers or taking power to charge them, but it could be done not only with security against any possible loss, but with a very large payment to be made to the ratepayers if the County Council would but act as commercial men do. The Tramway Companies would give a large sum of money to cross the bridge. They would keep the bridge in order, and pay a large sum to the ratepayers annually in aid of the rates. If the line is to be made at all, it should not be made by the County Council, but by somebody else under conditions in which the ratepayers would be indemnified against any loss. For this reason, in addition to those given by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, I join in their hope that the Bill will be thrown out.

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

I think it would be convenient to the House if we were to restrict the Debate to rather narrower limits than did the last speaker. There are some persons now soliciting votes who believe that the whole of the tramways should be taken by the County Council, and worked on a semi-philanthropic and socialistic principle, at a loss, for the benefit of the people of the Metropolis, in somewhat the same way as the Post Office is worked. Whether there be many or few of these persons remains to be seen. I suspect that the number who indulge in these dreams is few. What I would submit to the hon. Member is that the best way to resist foolish proposals is to be sensible ourselves. Let us look at this question in its real dimensions and see what it really means. It is the same proposal as that brought before the House last year and rejected, and it will probably be rejected now. Although it is proposed this year by the County Council, and was proposed last year by the Tramways Company, it is practically the same thing. If the Council takes over a tramway, it does so in accordance with what is now the law, which enables it to take over the various lines at fixed periods. The Bill also contains powers for the County Council to come to terms so that it will not work the line, but the Tramway Company will do so. These terms between the County Council and the Company are matters which will properly come under discussion in the Committee upstairs, and they are not points which we should enter into here. They should be examined by the Committee, if on consideration of the principle of the Bill you do not see a. fundamental objection to the construction of the tramway. What we have to consider here is whether there is any fundamental objection to the construction of the tramway. Let us examine that. Are the circumstances of convenience or inconvenience such that you will not entertain the project of a tramway being constructed over the bridge and a little way along the Embankment, not further than Charing Cross Bridge—so as not to interfere with the traffic from East to West? Have you such rooted objection to this tramway that you cannot allow the Bill to go upstairs? I asked hon. Members to consider this last year. It is perfectly true that there are no tramways along the Boulevard des Italiennes or the Rue, de Rivoli; but they are all along the Seine, along the Champs Elysées. Under the Empire they were stopped at the Place de la Concorde, but when the Empire was abolished one of the first things done was to run them again, and they now run between the Louvre and the Seine, which is a very narrow place. They run right through Paris, and to the other end of Versailles; and so between North and South there is uninterrupted communication. The tramways run from north to south and from east to west. Can you, with that experience before you, say that you destroy all the amenities of London if you allow this tramway to be brought over the bridge and along the Embankment as far as Charing Cross Bridge? If it were proposed to carry the line along the Strand or any other very busy place, it would, of course, be absurd. But when you have a large space like this, I should recommend the House—though I am afraid it will adhere to its original Resolution—to send the Bill upstairs, so that the details may be examined.

*(4.15.) MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

I think, Sir, there is another course we might take with regard to this Bill, and that is to adjourn this discussion for a month. I will explain why I suggest that. This is not only not the same Bill as that of last year, but it will be opposed by the very persons who introduced the Bill last year. I have a letter from the Chairman of the London Tramways Company, in which he says the Company would not, and could not, consent to the conditions which the County Council desire to impose, and that the Company would, in fact, feel it to be their duty to oppose the Bill in Committee. The County Council desires to impose the condition that the Company shall not, under any circumstances, employ a man more than ten hours a day; but there are occasions, such as a great Bank Holiday, when they desire to run every car at the last possible moment to carry poor people home at night; and if they were placed under that restriction it would be impossible for them to carry on their business in their own way, dealing as they might find it necessary with their own servants. Their employés, who receive 42s. a week, are contented, and it has been found quite impossible to get the great majority of them into any union. We are now trying to decide this question, when in a week's time we may have a County Council willing to make reasonable terms with the Tramway Company, and so lead to that which is of the greatest importance to thousands of working girls and poor children who cross the bridge every day, and whom the Tramway Company would carry across it without any further charge whatever. I am bound to vote for the Second Reading, because I believe that will happen between now and the sitting of the Committee which will enable the parties to come to terms. The Tramway Company is willing to build the line or work it for the County Council, paying interest to the ratepayers for the use. The hon. Member for the Uxbridge Division held out the Smoke Clause to the House. The Bill provides that the line shall alone be worked by either animal or electric power, so I do not see where the hon. Gentleman could get his smoke from. The line over the bridge would be a great convenience to persons driving to Waterloo, for the trams now stop in a narrow and dangerous spot, seriously affecting the traffic, and being a constant source of danger to those leaving and entering the trams. The Embankment is three or four times the breadth, and there would be little danger or trouble in entering or leaving the cars at that place. I regret that we must go to a Division, for I think it is absolutely useless to pass the Second Reading under the present circumstances, as the chairman's letter says the Company will not work the line under the conditions now insisted upon by the County Council. That Body takes power by this Bill to work the proposed line, but surely this is impossible. The line must be worked by the Tramway Company, or it cannot be worked at all. I appeal to the hon. Member for Hoxton to adjourn the Debate for a month, and then we shall have a chance of seeing whether the County Council will or will not come to terms with the Tramway Company, and if they will not, the House will be more than justified in throwing out the Bill.

*(4.23.) EARL COMPTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)

I have no intention of making an electioneering speech, as we are simply discussing whether a certain Bill promoted by the County Council shall be read a second time or not. As regards the matters brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The smoke difficulty was removed by the last speaker, and the clause referred to is the Board of Trade Clause, which has to be inserted in all such Bills, and I am quite ready to leave that point to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who, I regret, was not here at the commencement of the discussion. We have been told that the traffic would be seriously impeded across Westminster Bridge. There are four lines of traffic over London Bridge, and they are regulated just as if tram lines, were laid down, therefore I cannot see where the objection comes in. As to the laying of the lines, I think some statement should be made on behalf of the County Council, as they are not to be laid in the centre of the bridge, but one line on each side, leaving the centre for the general traffic. The roadway is 54 feet wide, and the two lines for the tramway would take up 14 feet, leaving a 40 feet roadway for the general traffic, which would be ample. We should consider the necessity there is for some tramway communication between the South of London and the rest of the Metropolis. As to the question of finance, it seems to be the impression that it would be a serious matter. The cost would be £10,000. What has been the offer of the Tramway Company? Their offer has been to pay £1,000 a year. Of course there would be expenses, wear and tear and keeping up the line, and they might be calculated at 25 to 30 per cent. at the very outside. There would be no question of loss to the ratepayers of any shape or kind. A great deal has been made of the point that the County Council should have left the question for a future Council to decide. Foy my own part, I look upon that view with extreme disfavour; I think that it is the duty of a Municipal Body to carry out its work to the last moment, and that it has no right to postpone to its successors a duty which it regards at the present moment as necessary. With regard to the question of spoiling the Embankment, I imagine that the Embankment was made for the use of the ratepayers of London, that it should be used for their convenience, and that it should be left to them to determine what use to make of it. The argument has been used that the tramway would be competing with the Underground Railway. But that argument would mean that we are to have no more tramways or omnibuses at all. As a matter of fact, what is wanted is competition, and why should we not have it? Some hon. Members opposite seem to hold that everything proposed by the London County Council must be wrong, and I must confess regret that Party opposition has resulted in Party fights in elections for the London County Council. The London County Council knows that the districts of South London, which would be affected by this Bill, are unanimous in favour of it, and we have only done our duty is bringing it forward. I should like to call the attention of the House to Clause 5, by which it is laid down explicitly that if the work is not done in three years the matter will lapse. Therefore it will be in the power of the new County Council to decide whether they will go on with it or not, and the term would come to an end during their tenure of office.


The Underground Railway paid £200,000 for the privilege of going along the Embankment.

(4.40.) MR. E. BOULNOIS (Marylebone, E.)

I wish to say a few words upon the subject, but I do not desire to go into the matter of competition as to which these tramways and omnibuses will be subjected. I wish to say a few words from the point of view taken by the minority of the Council against the course adopted by the Council of constructing tramways. The hon. Member for Shoreditch has stated that the County Council does not desire to work the tramways, but to enter into an arrangement with the Tramway Company by which the latter should work it. I do not believe that it would be possible for the present County Council to enter into such an agreement with Tramway Companies, because, as we all know, it insists upon such terms as to wages paid and the length of hours worked as that it would be absolutely impossible for the Company to entertain such proposals and pay its way. The minority of the Council object very strongly to the Council working those tramways. I admit there is a large majority in favour of taking them over and leasing them; but there has been a distinct undertaking given that there should be no attempt made to work them. With regard to the estimated cost of this undertaking, since the question of the acquisition of tramways has been discussed in this House last year the County Council has given notice to a Tramway Company to purchase a very small piece of line. That purchase has been carried out upon the estimate made by the valuer of the Council, and it is now rumoured that a claim six or seven times as large as the estimate made by the valuer has been sent in by the Tramway Company. I think, therefore, it is necessary to accept the noble Lord's statement as to cost with caution. What I ask the House to do is to give time. This is purely an experiment, and I think the House should pause before allowing such an undertaking to be prac- tically forced upon the successors of the present County Council.

*(4.45.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

The opposition to this Bill comes from two classes of Members—those who are actuated by an intense hatred of the London County Council and all its acts, and those who can afford to ride in carriages and cabs and who disregard the wants of the masses, who must ride in omnibuses or tramways or walk. The conditions which the London County Council desire to impose upon the Tramway Company are to my mind rational and wholesome. These conditions are that the Company should pay their servants fair wages, and that the hours of work should be limited to ten hours a day.


I wish to explain that there is no condition affecting the wages to be paid. The servants of the Company have always been contented with the wages they received, and they have refused to join in the union.


The statement that a condition as to wages was to be imposed has been made by at least two hon. Members upon the other side of the House, and if such a condition is not contained in the Bill the hon. Members have been misleading the House. I believe that the poorer ratepayers of London have made up their mind that the control of the tramways should be in charge of the London County Council. Hundreds and thousands of people living upon the other side of the Thames are most anxious to avail themselves of the increased facilities of locomotion which would be supplied by this Bill, and I confidently say that if the opponents of the Bill succeed in defeating it they will regret their action before long. Depend upon it that the new County Council will insist upon harder conditions than the present Council seek to impose upon the Tramway Companies, and I believe it is quite possible that they will be supported in their demand by a Liberal House of Commons.

(4.50.) MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)

I think there can be no doubt that the construction of a tramway on Westminster Bridge would seriously interfere with the traffic. There is, in fact, no room on the bridge for a tramway. If there were any widespread desire for a tramway along this route I should say that the best proof of it would be to see omnibuses running along the same route, for it may be taken for granted that where the public wish to go there the omnibuses will be found. But we find none along this route; along the Embankment you seldom see an omnibus, and I take it that that is the best proof that the route is not desired for the purpose. Why was the Embankment constructed? I take it that it was not built for the use of a few people who want to go to the South of the Thames from Charing Cross, but rather for the general benefit of the people. Besides, it cannot be said that it is for the benefit of the public generally; for there are but few shops in the neighbourhood of Charing Cross. The Embankment was constructed for the general benefit of the whole of London, and I, for one, must protest against its being applied to the use of any particular class. The Embankment was spoken of as a great boulevard, and hon. Gentlemen referred to Paris, but they will find that in Paris there is no line of tramway running over any bridge. In Paris there may be a line of tramway running along the side of a bridge, but there is none running over it. Hon. Gentlemen want to have a tram line running along the Embankment in order that there might be better communication established with North London in the most congested districts. If they want to have communication established from North to South London it certainly ought not to be over Westminster Bridge.


Might I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for a moment with reference to what he said about Paris? There are at least two tramway lines in Paris running across bridges.


Then I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. But referring to London, I wish to point out to the hon. Gentleman who sneered at the statement that carriage wheels were injured by tramway lines, that carriage wheels are injured, and so are cab wheels, and so are omnibus wheels, and so are light car's and dray's wheels injured, and so are fire engines' wheels injured. I venture to say that the tramway line there is not wanted, that it is not required, and that it will destroy the beauty and all the interest of that noble boulevard, the Thames Embankment, Hon. Gentlemen opposite may also wish to use the open spaces along the Embankment, which were made by the late Leader of the House. Hon. Gentlemen in their Communistic wishes may desire to have gasometers erected there. I am opposed to this Bill on principle, and, further, I am opposed to it because I say, as a London Member, that a tram line is not wanted on the Thames Embankment.

* MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

It seems to me deplorable that the time of the House should be wasted with discussing a matter so small as this, a proposal relating to a tramway line which is promoted by the London County Council, and which does not extend to the length of three-fourths of a mile. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have spoken of this as a Socialistic movement, and as the introduction of the thin end of the wedge. I was very much surprised to hear this from the hon. Member for the Wandsworth Division, because I remember that this movement is only a small part of a scheme which was promoted in this House more than 20 years ago. It was not promoted by Socialists then; it was not denounced then as a Socialistic movement; it was promoted by the London Tramways Company. It was opposed by Mr. Beresford Hope, who sat on this side of the House, and he conjured up before the House all the horrors which have been referred to by the hon. Baronet the Member for the South Kensington Division, and spoke of trams being allowed to run down Piccadilly, and down the Strand, and going along and destroying the Thames Embankment. Really, this is a matter extending over a distance of under five furlongs.

An hon. MEMBER: Eight miles of running power.


That is the running power that the London Tramways Company wanted to get at that time. But what we want is to get the control of the tramways. The Metropolitan Board of Works opposed them because they wanted entire control of the tramways; the Metropolitan Board of Works contemplated what I hope the London County Council contemplate—getting complete control, not to work them; but as the streets are the property of the citizens of London, they should be under the control of the Local Authorities of London. We do these things in the Provinces. Sheffield controls the tramways, so does Liverpool, and many other large towns. We have control of the tramways, because it may be necessary to change or divert the line of a street and improve it, and it is right that the Municipality should have complete control over it. I never heard such an argument as this on a Private Bill in this House—that this Bill should not be sent up in the usual course to a Committee upstairs because there was an election coming on. It is the first time that such an argument has been advanced in this House. Just fancy one saying "Oh! throw out the Nottingham Improvement Bill, or the Liverpool Improvement Bill; they will have a new election in November, and then there will be a change in the views of the constituency." Why these arguments are monstrous, and I think they hardly justify the waste of time the House is put to in this matter. What are the facts? There are 60,000 ratepayers of South London praying the House to make this small improvement. My right hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means has made a brief but very powerful and important speech in favour of sending it to a Committee upstairs. Every argument that has been advanced against the measure is an argument that ought to be addressed to a Committee upstairs. That is the proper tribunal to try it. It is mischievous to the last degree that the House should take this matter into its own hands, and should refuse to consider the wants of any Municipality, and should further refuse to send the matter before the ordinary tribunal. As to what the hon. Baronet the Member for South Kensington said about the mischief of tramways, he has heard from the Chairman of Ways and Means what takes place in Paris, and Brussels too.


I wish to say that I oppose this Bill on behalf of the West End Ratepayers Association, who have successfully defeated a series of these measures introduced notably by the very persons to whom the right hon. Gentleman alludes. About ten years ago it was proposed to bring this very tramway across Westminster Bridge, up Victoria Street, and also up Sloane Square.


And who are the West End Ratepayers' Association? Let me ask the right hon. Baronet what right have the West End Ratepayers' Association to interfere with a proposal for bringing a tramway line from South London across Westminster Bridge, or to take up the time of the House in opposition to the 60,000 ratepayers who have petitioned in favour of the proposal? After all, it is a question to be decided by a Committee upstairs.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question.(Cries of "Order, order!") I want to know whether the Petition was presented this year or not?


The real question is—shall this Bill be referred to a Committee upstairs? During the last 24 years that I have been in this House it has always been the custom to send Bills of this kind before a Committee upstairs. That is the proper way, and I hope this House will not stand in the way of an important improvement promoted by a Local Authority which the Government itself has set up. I trust we shall go at once to a Division.

*(5.13.) SIR CHARLES C. FRASER (Lambeth, N)

I beg leave to trespass on the time of the House for a few moments. I shall stand closely to the question. I shall not wander to Paris, and I do not "come from Sheffield." I claim to have an intimate acquaintance with Westminster Bridge and its neighbourhood, and would give evidence as Member for North Lambeth, which I am proud to be, on which one end of the bridge rests. I would draw attention to a new feature in this Bill. Last year it was proposed to take the tramcars from Westminster Bridge Road over Westminster Bridge; this year it is proposed also to take the Albert Embankment tramcars—which at present stop well short of the bridge and road—round St. Thomas's Hospital, so that both lines will converge on the bridge—to the great detriment of trade and traffic. The noble Lord the Member for Barnsley (Lord Compton) has pictured four gentle streams gliding smoothly side by side over the bridge under the guidance of the County Council. I doubt it, and would leave his Lordship on the bridge and pass to the Westminster end of it, where the two lines of trams will have to turn sharply to the right on to the Victoria Embankment. At this point the flood of traffic from Victoria Street, Great George Street, Parliament Street, through Bridge Street, pour down and must cause great danger and difficulty. Every Member at the present time recognises that but for the attention of the police in Bridge Street we should all be killed every afternoon. I would not trespass on the time of the House; I would not speak of the County Council or of Socialists, of those who loll in gilded chariots, or of the working men who, full of health and life, trudge to their work like Englishmen, but I would ask the House to focus its interest on those who have not those advantages when they face the dangers of the streets, and ask it to stay the advance of the uncompromising tramcar.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 160; Noes 158.—(Div. List, No. 9.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.