§ As amended, further considered.
§ * MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
rose to move the following new Clause:—Section 50, of 'The Southwark and Deptford Tramways Act, 1879' (42 and 43 Vic, c. 72), shall be amended by leaving out at the end of the section the words 'but in no case shall the Company be bound to charge a less sum than twopence,'He said that from time to time complaints had been made with regard to the sudden increase of tramway fares on public holidays and Sundays. He proposed, as far as possible, to prevent that by amending the Act of 1879, which gave the company power to charge fares not exceeding 1d. per mile, a fraction of a mile to be deemed a mile, and which then went on to provide—But in no case shall the Company be bound to charge a less sum than twopence.It was the latter part of the clause he wanted to do away with by his Amendment. He did not desire to make any general attack on tramways, which were a great boon to the working classes. But they were a monopoly which existed through powers granted by Parliament, and as a monopoly it was their duty to see that these companies acted fairly towards the public. The tramways were in the habit of reducing their fares even below their legal limit. They charged ½d, 1d., and l½A. fares, but on public holidays they suddenly increased these three classes of fares to 2d. under the portion of the clause to which be had referred. It seemed to him that that was very wrong to the public. It was an absurd anomaly it should be stated in the clause of an Act of Parliament that the charge should be not more than 1d. per mile if these companies were then to be allowed to charge 2d. for one mile, which in the majority of cases was all the distance people desired to travel on the tramways. He desired to get this clause struck out in the case of every Tramway Company, and especially in London, for it was almost entirely in London that this excessive charge was made. He heard he was to be opposed by the Board of Trade in this matter. He was sorry for 1763 this, because it was the duty of the Board of Trade to protect the public in such cases. He had always noticed, however, that the Board of Trade had never done their duty towards the public with regard both to tramways and railways. They had allowed—in London, at any rate—tramways to be built in a most improper manner, and they had permitted such clauses as he complained of to be in-inserted in Bills without any attempt whatever to protect the public. Finding that the Board of Trade were not doing their duty, within the last 10 years the Local Authorities had turned their attention to these matters themselves, and Tramway Companies had been compelled to construct their tramways so that there would be as little danger as possible to the public. These remarks were even more applicable to the case of railways. He understood the Board of Trade wore going to contend that to do away with this right to charge 2d. for one mile or fraction of a mile would damage rather than benefit the public. He would point out that Tramway Companies did not reduce their fares for the benefit of the public, but for their own benefit. They found they made money by it, and they bad no right to increase these fares in the particular occasions of holidays. He disclaimed any animosity whatever against, this particular company, which, he was told, did not increase their fares on Sundays, as some companies did. He was obliged to bring the question forward now, because this company was before the House of Commons at the present moment. His idea was to get this clause altered in every Act of Parliament referring to tramways in this country. It was a great hardship that working men and their families should be compelled to pay double the fare they expected, which was a serious matter indeed to them with their straitened resources, which made every 1d. of the greatest possible importance. He begged to move the Amendment.
§ A Clause (Amendment of s. 50 of Southwark and Deptford Tramways Act, 1879,)—(Mr. A. C. Morton,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."1764
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA,) Sheffield, Brightside
said, the hon. Member had prefaced his statement by some observations as to the Board of Trade, which he would hardly have made if he had had any experience of that Body. He would put the House in possession of the actual facts of the case, and they could then judge whether the hon. Gentleman had any grounds for his present proposal. The London, Deptford, and Greenwich Tramways Company was a company which was established in 1879. It ran through the very poorest districts in London; it had carried more than 50,000,000 of people, and had never yet paid a dividend of more than one-half per cent. For three years they paid no dividend at all, and they charged the lowest tramway fares in London. They had a statutory right to charge 1d. per mile, but, instead of doing that, they only charged 1d. for 2¼ miles and l½d. for the whole distance of 3¼ miles. The Bill now before the House had no reference to tolls whatever, but simply asked for an extension of time for completing certain works. The only complaint against the Tramway Company was that on three Bank holidays in the year, when large crowds went from London to Greenwich, and when it was impossible to measure short distances and take 1d. to be regulated by the distance, they allowed the passengers to go the whole distance for 1½d. Because the company did this three times in the year the hon. Gentleman wanted to introduce this Amendment into the Company's Bill, and to make it an exception to every other Tramway Company—although it was one which charged the lowest fares—by depriving it of the power of fixing a minimum fare of 2d., which they practically never exercised. He really thought the hon. Member had made out no case for interference, and he appealed to him to withdraw his Amendment. He would point out that Clause 55 in this Bill actually gave the power to any Local Authority—the London County Council to wit—to go before the Board of Trade and complain of this Tramway Company if it should at any time charge a fare in excess of its powers, and, what was more, the Board of Trade had a general power in such cases to reduce the fares. The hon. Gentleman should, therefore, 1765 be a little more careful and not make statements as to there being no protection to working men. He hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, these tramways were in the nature of monopolies, and when they came to ask for something beyond what had already been given, it seemed to him only reasonable that they on their side had a right to make a demand on the companies—
§ MR. MUNDELLA
There is nothing the company is asking for in this case except an extension of time to enable them to complete a portion of their line.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, they know perfectly well that an extension of time in such cases was an enormous concession. What was it his hon. Friend asked for by his Amendment? That these tramways should charge on holidays the same as they charged on other days. His right hon. Friend replied that this was a poor company which did not make a large dividend.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
would like to know what was the capital of the company, and he should like to go into the amount of free shares given and all about the contracts. He did not believe in this sort of thing. When a company constructed a tramway on a public road they did it at their own risk and peril, and if they did not believe it would turn out an exceedingly good thing they would not do it. Then they came there and asked for further time, and that House had a right, as a condition to granting that further time, to require that the company should charge on holidays the same fares as it charged on other days. There was a special and legitimate reason why the charge should be the same on holidays. Persons on holiday were apt to spend a good deal of money. His right hon. Friend seemed to think that when poor people had a holiday money was going to rain upon them—
§ MR. MUNDELLA
This company does not charge more on holidays than on other days for the through distance, and the traffic is almost entirely a through distance traffic. All the charge is 1½. for 3¼ miles, although they have a statutory right to charge 1d. per mile.
§ MR. BARROW
said, this Amendment was moved altogether on indiscriminate grounds. The hon. Member for Peterborough said that whenever a Tramway Bill came up he felt it his duty to oppose it.
§ * MR. A. C. MORTON
I said nothing of the kind. I simply said I should try to make in every ease the same Amendment as in this.
§ MR. BARROW
said, the injustice and inequality came in in the Amendment, because the circumstances of the various tramways differed very much; and if the hon. Member were to discriminate in his criticism and treatment, they might have more tolerance for what he said in the matter. He was not aware that the hon. Member had or represented any interests in the districts concerned, and he should have attached more value to the matter if the hon. Gentleman had discussed the question with some of the Representatives of the district. He (Mr. Barrow) represented a great part of the district through which this tramway ran, and he was prepared to say that the inhabitants would very much like to see this measure carried. It was for their convenience that this tramway should exist and be maintained. The working men of the district would suffer, instead of be benefited, if this Amendment were passed. This Tramway Company had been in existence for many years, they had sacrificed their own profits in the interests of the poor working men of the neighbourhood, and they did not intend to take advantage, even in the holidays, of exacting the fares which their statutory powers entitled them to—of 1d. per mile. He had no interest in the company, but he certainly hail an interest in his constituents, and he considered that if the hon. Member for Peterborough were to have his way in the matter this Tramway Company would very soon cease to exist, and the people of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe would have no reason to be satisfied with the action of the hon. Member.
§ MR. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, the point the hon. Member for Peterborough wished to bring before the House was that Tramway Companies were in the habit of increasing their fares at 1767 holiday times. This might be a very poor company, but if it increased its fares at holiday times it was the very poorest class who would have to pay these increased fares, and what they desired in Bills of this description was to protest against the alteration and increase of fares on the very days that the poorer classes were anxious to avail themselves of the tramways in order to visit the parks and other places. He thought if they were wise those companies which had been in the habit of altering their fares on the occasion of holidays would take a note of warning from the Debate of this afternoon, and would understand that they were not to be allowed to sweat the working classes by the imposition of increased fares on almost the only occasions on which the working classes had the opportunity of using the trams.
§ MR. E. H. BAYLEY (Camberwell, N.)
expressed the opinion that in the districts most specially concerned there was not the slightest feeling in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Peterborough, but quite the contrary. This tramway ran through districts inhabited by a poor population, and it carried people a distance of 3¼ or 3½ miles for l½d. It was in consequence of the smallness of the faros that he attributed the circumstance of the company paying no dividend. He pointed out that the effect of passing this Amendment would be, in all probability, to reduce the income of the company; and the result would be that the company would either be extinguished, to the great loss of the poor population of the districts, or the company would have to recoup themselves for increased expenses by reducing the wages of their employés, which he ventured to think would be a very undesirable state of things.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
observed that the London Railway, Tramway, and Omnibus Companies were in the habit of charging double fares on holidays, which often led to a deal of trouble. In the Bill which related to this company it was laid down that they should not charge more than 1d. a mile, or a less minimum than 2d. All his hon. Friend by his Amendment wished to do was to take away the right to charge 2d. for any distance, and even if that were assented to the company would still retain the right to a fare of 1d. a mile.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
sympathised with the desire of the hon. Member for Peterborough to reduce fares, and if he had proceeded by moans of a general Bill, as he had in some other oases, he should have supported the hon. Member, as he had done previously. In this particular instance, however, it was shown there was not room for a reduction, and the fares charged even on holidays were below the maximum. He did not think, under the circumstances, that this was a case in which such a proposal as the hon. Member suggested could be put in force; and he would, therefore, press upon him the desirability of withdrawing his Amendment, and dealing with the question as he had suggested, instead of by opposing each of several Private Bills introduced for other purposes.
§ * MR. MORTON
said, he should be glad to be able to adopt the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, but it would be impossible to get such a Bill passed within any reasonable time.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 118.—(Division List, No. 167.)
§ Ordered, That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time.—(Dr. Farquharson.)
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.