HC Deb 12 May 1892 vol 4 cc678-92


As amended, Considered.

*(3.8.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I rise to move the insertion of the Clause which stands in my name on the Paper, and I do so at the instance of the London County Council. It is, however, desirable that I should correct a statement which I find is made in the papers issued to-day by the promoters of this Bill, in which they say that the Clause I am now moving is identical with that which was submitted in Committee on the Bill. That is an entire mistake. I should not think it respectful to the Committee to propose here a Clause which that Committee had examined and rejected, and I should hardly think it prudent, having regard to the object I have in view. This which I now submit is a materially modified proposal, so much so, in fact, that it may be said to be a new Clause; and I, therefore, ask Members of the Committee and the House generally to give an unbiased consideration to the proposal I put forward. I shall not labour the point that if the Public Health Act and the Housing Act are to be effectually administered in London we must have an ample supply of cheap trains for workmen, in order to make it practicable for those whose livelihood has to be earned in London to live in the suburbs; and to provide, in part at least, for those persons who are displaced by the clearance of insanitary areas. I may quote one sentence from a communication on this subject received from Mr. Beachcroft, the Chairman of the Housing Committee of the London County Council. Mr. Beachcroft is not a member of the Progressive Party, although he enjoys, as I am sure he deserves, the respect of all parties, and therefore I think that his authority will be accepted even by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are most virulent assailants of the London County Council. Mr. Beachcroft writes— While we are waiting for the Board of Trade, London is becoming more and more liable to insanitary conditions from overcrowding. Not only is the work of our Public Health Committee, but the action of Vestries is stopped by the fact that there is nowhere for the people, who are displaced, to go to. Mr. Beachcroft adds— I am hopeless of doing anything unless enormously increased travelling facilities are offered immediately. I do not think I need add anything to insist on the importance of providing a cheap service of trains, nor do I think I need say anything upon what I think will be admitted—that there is at the present time a most deplorable deficiency in the supply. Moreover, it is admitted that this railway will run through a district in which cheap trains for workmen will be specially required. I do not know whether this will be conceded by the promoters of the Bill, but certainly it is one of the findings of the Select Committee, because they say the most ample accommodation for workmen's trains ought to be offered, but they add that the Act of 1883 is sufficient for this purpose and ought to be operative. Now, according to the Act of 1883, how does the matter stand? Prior to that year, and at that time, it had become a tolerably general practice on the part of this House to introduce into Railway Bills clauses providing that workmen's trains should be run at special rates, the usual rate being 1d. per passenger per journey; the distances travelled being six or eight miles, or even more. I need not trouble the House with cases, but I may mention that they were given in detail by Mr. Courtenay Boyle, of the Board of Trade, in reference to the Central London Railway Bill of last year. There is one case I may for a moment refer to—that of the Great Eastern Railway Company. This House placed the Great Eastern Company under very stringent terms with regard to the fares to be charged by workmen's trains; it provided that these trains should carry workmen between Liverpool Street and New Gross, Liverpool Street and Waltham-stow and Liverpool Street and Edmonton at a penny per passenger for each journey, that is to say a penny for distances respectively of five, seven, and eight miles. I have no doubt the shareholders of the Great Eastern Company protested against that Clause as much as those interested in the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company now protest against this Clause; but let the House notice that this very Company, which we placed under the severest conditions with regard to workmen's trains, have voluntarily gone beyond the statutory conditions we imposed, and to-day the Great Eastern is emphatically the workmen's Company—the one Company which above all others seems to regard the workmen as desirable customers. They make provision for them, and consult the needs of workmen to an extent and in a variety of ways which no other London company does. I submit, therefore, that the policy this House adopted in imposing these conditions has been amply justified in the case of the Great Eastern Company. But the promoters of this Bill say that although it would have been perfectly right before 1883 to move the insertion of such a Clause as this in a Railway Bill, the case is now altered by the passing of the Cheap Trains Act of that year. Now for a moment let me refer to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes in 1885, because they have said something very pertinent to the argument on this point. They say— Your Commissioners would here endorse the recommendations of the Select Committee of 1882 as to the conditions which should be imposed for the running of workmen's trains as opportunities may offer. Now what is the meaning of these words "as opportunities may offer"? Surely it is clear the meaning is that where a railway company comes to this House for new powers this House ought to seize the opportunity to place that company under terms similar to those which have been imposed upon the Great Eastern Company. So I may claim that I am, in moving this Clause, only following the course which was suggested by the Royal Commission of 1885, and this will be recognised as a good authority. Beyond this I can claim in my support a precedent set by this House so recently as last year. I refer to the Central London Railway Act of 1891. In that Act it is provided that the Company shall run three trains daily each way morning and evening at fares not exceeding one penny for the journey, that is one penny for six miles. Now I notice that the promoters of this Bill in arguing against the Clause proposed in Committee upstairs said they would be placed in a very unfair position as compared with the Metropolitan Railway Company and the London and North-Western Company. But that was exactly the objection, or a very similar objection, raised by the promoters of the Central London Railway Bill last year. The counsel for the promoters put his case almost plaintively before the Committee. "You will be putting us," he said, "in a worse position than any other company, and what have we done to deserve it?" Well, the objection was not allowed to prevail in that case, and I see no reason why it should be permitted to prevail in this. Now, with regard to the adequacy of the Clause which the promoters say they have introduced to meet the equity of the case and the unfairness of this Clause, they say that whereas the Metropolitan Railway Company would be permitted to charge four-pence between Baker Street and Neasden, our proposal would only allow the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company to charge twopence. The Clause in its amended form meets that objection because Neasden is beyond five miles from the London terminus and it would therefore be competent for the Company under this Clause to charge the same fare to Neasden which the Metropolitan Company are required by the Railway Commission to charge. Then it may be asked if we are allowing the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company to charge the same fare in this case, what object will be gained by passing this Clause? A difference would arise so far as the intervening stations between Baker Street and Neasden are concerned. For instance, take the case of Willesden Green, where I am informed there is a considerable and growing working-class population. At present the return fare between Willesden Green and Baker Street is threepence, and under this Clause the Company will not be able to charge more than twopence. I submit that threepence, having regard to the fares charged for the longer distances on other railways, is an unreasonable fare, and that twopence would be quite as much as the Railway Company ought to charge for the distance which is only about four miles. Then secondly this Clause would require that trains should be run up to a reasonable time, eight o'clock. As a matter of fact at present these trains fall considerably short of eight o'clock, and the Royal Commission in that Report to which I referred a moment ago say that at present—that is some years ago—considerable inconvenience is experienced by workmen who find themselves compelled to travel by trains carrying them to London at seven o'clock when their work only commences at eight o'clock. Thirdly, the Clause requires that the Company shall permit a passenger taking a workman's ticket to return by any third class train. I do not conceal from the House that I make this suggestion for the convenience of the workmen, but at the same time it seems to me it is equally desirable in the interest of the Company. How does the matter stand? Having brought the workman into London, the Company are bound by their contract to carry him back again; and I think it would be an advantage for the Company to carry back as many of these passengers as possible during the hours when traffic is slack, and when, as we know, trains are frequently run almost empty. I may mention that the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company have actually adopted this enlightened policy. In the paper which has been issued by the promoters of the Bill, as well as in the arguments used before the Committee which rejected the original Clause, considerable stress is laid upon the recent decision of the Railway Commissioners in the Neasden case; but, for my own part, I think there is no particular reason to be proud of the proceedings connected with the Neasden case, because, as a matter of fact, the memorial on the subject was presented to the Board of Trade so long ago as 1889, and three years have been required to secure the remedy.

MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The memorial was not presented until August last year. The memorial he is referring to was a memorial to the directors.


; No one is better entitled to speak on the subject than the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I accept his correction. But, at all events, this case has been a matter agitated and recommended on many public occasions during a period of three years, and all this time was required, before there could be obtained what I consider a somewhat inadequate remedy. The Board of Trade disputes the duty which is laid upon the Department by the Cheap Trains Act of 1883, and the Commission of 1885 in that Report to which I have referred have some very pertinent and stringent observations with regard to the view of its duty which the Board of Trade has taken. They say that the Act mentions eight o'clock in the morning as the limit of the time for running workmen's trains, but that most of the trains were run before seven o'clock. It was contended that the powers under the Act should be exercised with great discretion, but the Commissioners go on to express their opinion that under the Act a bargain was struck between the nation and the railway companies, there being a remission of part of the passenger duty on the one part, and this provision of a certain number of workmen's trains on the other part. The Board of Trade, however, preferred not to look on this as a bargain, on the ground that the repeal of the passenger duty could be justified on public grounds, and the Board does not take the initiative in action for the protection of workmen's interests. But, as the Commissioners say, the opportunity was taken to give increased powers to the Board of Trade which it was intended should be from time to time exercised to put pressure on companies for the increase of this accommodation. The Commissioners found that the powers of the Board had not been extensively, if at all, exercised; that it was not the custom of the Board to take the initiative; and they suggest that the Board of Trade should enter into communication with leading Trade Councils and other representative bodies of working men for the purpose of securing to the working classes the full benefit to which they are entitled, under the Act of 1883, as to hours of trains and in other respects. But I fear the Board of Trade is but a broken reed to rely upon. If the Board of Trade has acted on this suggestion, and has put itself in communication with the London Trade Councils, I am not myself aware of the fact. In these circumstances, I think I may claim the suggestion of the Commissioners as being in support of my proposal, and, at all events, it would be desirable to adopt a clause of this kind in order that this House might set up a kind of standard of fares for workmen's trains, and perhaps the Board of Trade would thereby be stimulated to bring other companies up to that standard. I submit I have made out a strong case in favour of the Clause, for, as I have said, I am following the suggestion of the Royal Commission of 1885, and I am able to claim in my support the precedent of the Central London Railway Act of last year set by this House itself. I beg, therefore, to move the new Clause of which I have given notice.

New Clause—

(Cheap trains for workmen.)

"The Company shall and they are hereby required at all times after the opening of the Railway for public traffic to run cheap trains each way for artisans, mechanics, and other working people between the London terminus and all stations on the Railway within the distance of ten miles thereof. Such trains shall be run each way every morning in the week and every evening in the week (Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Bank Holidays excepted.) Such up trains shall be timed to arrive at the London terminus at such times up to eight in the morning as the Company shall from time to time fix. The fares by such trains shall not exceed one penny as between the London terminus and any station within the distance of five miles, and shall not exceed two pence as between the London terminus and any station within a distance exceeding five miles up to ten miles, and the Company shall issue to passengers by such trains daily return tickets at double fares which tickets shall be available for return third class by any train. In case of any complaint made to the Board of Trade of the number of such trains or the hours appointed by the Company for the running of such trains the said Board shall have power to fix and regulate the same from time to time. The liability of the Company under any claim to compensation for injury or otherwise in respect of each passenger travelling by such trains shall be limited to a sum not exceeding one hundred pounds,"—(Mr. Pickersgill,)

—brought up, and read the first time.

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

(3.30.) SIR R. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)

I do not propose to follow the hon. Member through the various matters he has introduced to the attention of the House and details which, though they are of interest in themselves, raise principles which are outside the scope of the proposal we have now to decide upon. The question the House has before it is, Shall we put aside the Report of the Committee in one respect and adopt in its place a clause which is now, for the first time, brought to our notice, and the terms of which only appeared on the Paper yesterday? The hon. Member has laid great stress on this: that if the House will accept his recommendation, then we shall set up a standard of fairness for the rates for workmen's trains. He invites us upon his ex parte statement to deal with a matter involving figures and questions of finance, we being utterly unacquainted with the details of railway management and the expense of working a railway; that we should accept this proposal, and embody it in an Act as a standard for future railway legislation. Now, I venture to say that is asking the House to do more than it can reasonably be expected to undertake. May I put before the House the following argument? We, the Committee upstairs deliberately, having had witnesses before us examined and cross-examined, having had the whole case thoroughly argued out by able experts having ample acquaintance with details, came to a unanimous conclusion; and I am bound to say the materials furnished by the hon. Member do not enable the House to come to a judgment setting that unanimous opinion aside. The hon. Member has very fairly stated that his proposal now differs materially from the original recommendation of the London County Council, on whose behalf I understand he speaks.




It is so. The proposal does differ from the original excessive demand of the London County Council. He has omitted to mention that the first request of the Council was for the payment of £250,000 by the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company on account of street improvements. Besides this, the request of the London County Council as it came before the Committee was of exactly twice the extent of that now put forward, or, in other words, the clause of the hon. Member will allow a charge of 100 per cent. more on these workmen's trains than the original demand did. But the point in question is, Are we now to accept this clause? I venture to think it is essentially a matter to decide upon details; it cannot be dealt with here; it can only be dealt with in the proper place; and when the Bill goes before the Committee of the House of Lords, there will be the opportunity to raise and decide this question. We could come to a decision here only on the most imperfect evidence. We cannot put the General Manager in the box and examine him as to the possibilities of railway management and finance; we are not a tribunal to deal with such matters of detail, which can be effectually dealt with by a small Committee with the advantages necessarily denied to us here. There is one reason, which I will put very shortly, why the proposal of the hon. Member even in its present modified form ought not to be accepted. The clause would lay down a certain fixed fare to be charged by the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Company. The line will communicate with London through Harrow, whence the distance is ten miles. There is another railway—the London and North Western Company—having connection with Harrow, with powers under the general law, whereas the hon. Member would place this new line under a special law, reducing the amount which it could earn from this traffic. Now, whether this is desirable or not, it is obvious that it would not be just towards this railway and the Metropolitan, which Company would, in some degree, also be affected, that Company not having been heard in respect to the clause. The Company also take exception to the provision that workmen should return by any train. We had evidence from the managers that such an obligation would create such serious difficulties that they did not in all cases see how they could overcome them. This is just one of those matters of detail which can be threshed out before a Committee, but cannot in the House have the attention it deserves. One effect of this clause, also, would be to upset a decision the Railway Commission recently arrived at, a decision which dealt not only with a matter of principle, but with a particular part of the Metropolitan line, which practically will be amalgamated with this new line, or, at any rate, over which the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Company will exercise running powers. Further, the clause would introduce the anomaly of passengers travelling by the same train and class at different rates—the one travelling at the Metropolitan Company's rate, the other exercising the right this clause would give. In short, whichever way you look at it, the proposal is beset with difficulties, and I trust the House will not accept it. The Committee, having fully considered the matter, determined that it should be left to the operation of the general law, and here let me say that the general law is most simple in its application. Some of the evils of which the hon. Member has complained have no doubt arisen from the fact that the people aggrieved have not taken the trouble to use the opportunity given them or the means which the Statute has put in their power. A number of workmen have simply to meet in an informal way, draw up a formal memorial of the simplest character, present it, and the matter will be decided, the fares reduced, or the train accommodation increased. The operation of the Act is most simple. If the Act has not been effective that is because people have not resorted to it. The Committee, as I have said, fully and carefully considered this matter, and arrived at their judgment in no haste; they fully sympathised with the desire of the workmen to get the fullest benefit from the train service; with all the advantage of ample evidence and able, argument they arrived at a unanimous opinion, and I hope and believe the House will support the decision the Committee came to, and will not accede to the proposal of the hon. Member.

*(3.41.) MR. LEVESON-GOWER (Stoke-upon-Trent)

As a Member of the Committee, I express the hope that the House will concur in the view of the hon. Baronet who was Chairman. I confess that when Mr. Beachcroft first brought in the Clause proposed for adoption by the Committee, I personally felt inclined to view it with favour; and it was only when I saw that the Clause could not be introduced without causing great harm and injustice to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company and also to the Metropolitan District Railway Company that, as the Chairman has said, I agreed with my colleagues on the Committee that we could not possibly accept the Clause. I am sure the hon. Member who has moved this Clause will acquit me of any desire to thwart the London County Council in any reasonable action. When we consider the two instances the hon. Member has quoted as giving precedents for this Clause, I think we must allow that those cases are not on all fours with this. In the first place, as the hon. Member has said, the Great Eastern Company have voluntarily gone beyond the provisions in their Act requiring them to run certain workmen's trains at fixed rates, and they have done this to the great convenience of the working classes as well as to their own advantage. Surely if the Company find it to their advantage to adopt such a policy we may trust the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company to find out that it will be to their advantage to provide workmen's trains in the same voluntary fashion. Besides this, the Census Returns show that the County of Essex is one of the most rapidly increasing in population of any in the United Kingdom. Take the Romford Division as an example—the division nearest London—the increase has been from 53,000 to 102,000. In spite of the slight decrease in the agricultural divisions, the whole county shows a considerable increase. In the case of the Central London Company, to which the hon. Member referred, there is a grave distinction from this case. In the first place, the whole length of the Central London line is to be only six miles, whereas it is proposed under this Clause to extend the fares to ten miles. In the second place, the Central Company's line will at once run through a densely-populated district. I do not think I need dwell upon the objections to the Clause, and I hope the House will confirm the unanimous decision the Committee came to.

*(3.42.) MR. J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)

I add the expression of my hope that the House will reject the Clause. For some time I have taken an interest in this question of workmen's trains, and the House will allow me to state that I have received a letter from the Metropolitan Railway Company signed by their General Manager, Colonel Bell, in the presence of their Chairman and the Chairman of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company to the following effect:— On behalf of the Metropolitan Railway Company we will undertake as from the 1st proximo to adopt the following scale of fares for our workmen's trains, viz:—For distances of five miles and under, 2d.; for distances from five miles up to ten miles, 4d.; for distances from ten miles and up to 15 miles, 6d.; including the return journey in each case. Daily and weekly tickets on this basis. Now, this offers far better terms than the hon. Member proposes by his Clause, and it applies to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company, because by Clause 105 in the Bill it is provided that the Company shall in respect to workmen's trains between their London terminus and Neasden, including intermediate stations, be entitled to charge no fares higher than for the time being are chargeable and charged by the Metropolitan Railway by their workmen's trains between Baker Street and Neasden, and intermediate stations. So not only will workmen succeed in getting what is asked by the Clause from the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company, but the rate of twopence, including the return fare for every five miles, will apply to distances up to 15 miles. I submit, therefore, the House need no longer be occupied with the discussion of the proposed Clause.

(3.49.) MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)

I think I shall best consult the convenience of the House by not entering upon details after the exhaustive analysis in the speech of the Chairman of the Committee, and after the Committee, upon the result of two days' examination, came to the decision that such a clause should not be introduced. I think it must be clear that it is utterly impossible to entertain the clause, considering that so very recently the rates at which workmen are to be carried on the Metropolitan line over which the Company will have to run, have been fixed by the Railway Commission. We have, then, the security of Clause 105 that the rates shall be identical, and we have the authoritative decision of the Railway Commission. Then, further, after the letter which the hon. Member for Camberwell (Mr. Maple) has just read, I do not think the House can possibly be justified in inserting the clause. The Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Company would not agree to the clause, and the arrangement just referred to will give better terms to those interested than the clause would give. Taking these matters into consideration, I do not think the House will be disposed to revise the decision of its Committee. After all, it must be remembered this is a question of finance; and it is utterly impossible for us here, even if we wished to do so, to form any opinion as to the ability of a Railway Company to carry at any given rate unless we have the evidence of managers and experts to guide us. Such evidence the Committee had, and then their decision was unanimous. If the London County Council are not satisfied with the proposal conveyed in the letter read by the hon. Member opposite, then the Council can raise the question again, and it can be fully and fairly discussed before the Committee of the other House. I think the House may now decide to support the finding of its Committee.

(3.52.) MR. JAMES ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

I think, probably, my hon. Friend (Mr. Pickersgill) may be satisfied, after hearing the letter read, that the promoters of the Bill are prepared to concede something in the direction indicated by the clause.




I do not want to overstate the case; I only want to say that my hon. Friend is justified in the action he has taken. It is a considerable concession, and I do not suppose my hon. Friend will go to a Division. But there remains the question of running these trains up to eight o'clock. These trains run through a district rapidly growing, and already largely populated by people whose work commences not at six o'clock, but at eight o'clock in the morning. I refer to the Willesden Green district particularly. These men are employed in the large houses in the City and elsewhere; they are packers, porters, warehousemen, and so on, and I think it is only right that they should have the means of using these cheap trains at the time they are required.


I understand that the hon. Member (Mr. Pickersgill) has made some reference to the action or inaction of the Board of Trade. I think it may be of interest to state that the London County Council have made a most exhaustive and searching inquiry into the number of workmen's trains running to and from the different London termini, and matters relating thereto, and certain recommendations for improvements in these matters may be found in the Report. If I may say so, the inquiry does the Council great credit. The Report has been sent to me, and I have taken immediate steps to communicate with the railway companies; but before I express any final opinion I ought to hear what they have to say. I have no doubt that the result will be beneficial.


Although the proposal, which I understand is put forward with authority, will more than meet the demand in respect to fares, the views of the County Council are not met on the other points—the times of trains and the return journey. Having regard, however, to the concession, which I acknowledge is of a most substantial character, I beg leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be read the third time.