§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton) moved:—"That Standing Order 171 be suspended in the case of the London County Tramways Bill, and that the Committee on the Bill have power, if they think fit to provide in the Bill, not with standing the said Standing Order, that the local authority may place and run carriages upon the tramways mentioned in the Bill or any of them, and take and demand tolls and charges in respect thereof."
§ SIR. J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
regretted that he had to oppose this instruction because, in the first place, the hon. Gentleman had not consulted the Parliamentary Committee of the County Council, and therefore had no sanction whatever for bringing this matter forward. As it was, the County Council had plenty of work to do. That work had been ineffectively done in the past. They knew that the late Council was very ambitious, and some persons seemed to have an idea that the present County Council was in favour of the policy of the, late Council, whereas it was totally opposed to it. As regards these tramways, he believed there was a great future for tramways. He considered that a great many more were required in London, but if the London County Council insisted on running tramways, there would be no companies coming forward to promote tramways. Therefore it seemed to him that this was a totally unnecessary instruction. It would tie up the hands of the, Committee. The County Council, no doubt, was still in the hands of the Progressive Members, although they represented a minority of the voters. Through the co-option of the Aldermen they had still a majority, and they secured a majority on all the Committees. 890 Parliament had wisely decided that corporations should not work the tramways unless they failed to get a proper price as a rental for the tram lines, but if they were to pass this Bill they would be proclaiming, far and wide, that it was the view of the House that the London County Council ought to work the tramways themselves. He thought it would be a very great mistake indeed if the London. County Council did take upon itself the working of these tramways. The Committees were numerous enough already, and those committees had now more work than they could do efficiently. Then the Instruction would tie the hands of the Committee upstairs, and that, he, thought would be most unfair and most unwise. The hon. Member who brought forward this motion, had had no instruction to do so from the present Parliamentary Committee of the London County Council. There was a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee last, Thursday, but not one word said about this Instruction, and he was surprised the next morning to find this Instruction on the papers of the House, and if it had not been for the hon. Member for Marylebone that Instruction would have been passed. That was the way they were being "jockeyed" by the present London County Council. If this Instruction were passed it would be, tantamount to saying that the London County Council were called upon to work these tramways, and by and by they would be enabled to take upon themselves more work than it was doing now. When they had London divided into divisional districts and much of the work that was now being done, by the County Council handed over to those authorities, then they might, do more work. But at present it was impossible for the members of the County Council, even if they were to attend from early morning to late at night, to fulfil all the duties which now devolved upon them.
§ MR. J. STUART
said the hon. Member had made, an assertion with regard to himself, namely, that he had placed this motion on the paper without authority, which was incorrect. A week ago the question of the propriety of moving this Instruction was brought up before the Parliamentary Committee of the County Council, and by a narrow majority that Committee requested him 891 to place this notice upon the paper of the House. In consequence of that resolution he placed the Motion on the paper, and it was to have been taken on Monday. But after communicating with the hon. Member for Marylebone he thought it would be right and proper that they should have the decision of the new County Council upon the main issue of whether they desired to proceed with the Bill that was at present before the House, or not, before going on with this Motion. That was agreed to, and the hon. Member for Marylebone yesterday brought forward a resolution in the County Council to the effect that the present Bill be, abandoned. That resolution was defeated by a majority of 70 to 55. Those were the whole of the circumstances of the case. The Instruction, if it were adopted by the House, would not tie the hands of the Committee upstairs. It was one of those Instructions familiar to the House and was not of a mandatory character. The hon. Member who had just spoken had treated this resolution as if it were a resolution in some way or other obliging, or pledging, the County Council to work the tramways. It was no such thing. If this were carried and the Committee approved, the Bill would give power to the County Council to work the tramways. That was a direct following out of the line in which their Standing Orders and legislation had gone. In 1870 there was a General Tramways Bill introduced which said this:—That nothing in this Act contained shall authorise any Local Authority to work tramways,and so on. That Act had been, read into the Tramways Acts, and in 1871 a Standing Order of this House was passed which said that no Committee upstairs should authorise any Local Authority to work the tramways. That absolutely prohibitory Standing Order continued for 20 years, but in 1891 there was a modified Standing Order passed whereby a Committee upstairs was empowered to allow the Local Authority to work the tramways, provided it should be unable to let them on terms which might be approved by the Board of Trade. They were asking in the present instance to go a step farther and to remove that restriction about working them only under those 892 terms. And they were doing that, not from any desire of his own or of his friends, to work the London tramways. They were prepared to see what the circumstances brought forth, but they said that their bargain in letting them was, from the business point of view, seriously interfered with by the fact that they had not full power to work them. He appealed to the House as to whether this was not a reasonable thing to grant to the London County Council. They must take their chance whether the County Council did or did not work them after it had the power. The House might be assured that the people of London were well enough able, to keep the County Council in order if they were taking any action which they believed detrimental to their own interests. That was well seen by the late County Council elections. There was a reason for moving this suspension of the Standing Order in the interests of London, and there were the cases of other municipalities such as that of Leeds, which were in the same position. Of the London Tramways, 30 miles out of the 100 were established before the General Acts Acts of 1870, or during the, year 1870, and under those Acts, the County Council as successor to the Metropolitan Board of Works had the right to purchase and work those 30 miles of tramways. But in respect of the remaining 70 miles, the Council had no power of working. The hon. Member had spoken of the destruction of private enterprise which would result from this proposal. There was no one who held more highly than he did the advantages of individual enterprise, but if such enterprise were damaged, it would be by the fact that the Council already had the power to purchase the tramways, and not by the fact that, having purchased the tramways, they were able to work them. He was confident that, from a business point of view, it was desirable that the Council should have these powers.
§ MR. E. BOULNOIS (Marylebone, East)
, said that he could quite appreciate that the House did not very much care about the little squabbles of parties at Spring Gardens. [Ministerial Cries of "Hear!"] He could also quite appreciate those cheers on the other side 893 of the House, for, lately, the squabbles had been more interesting to tine Opposition. As to the proceedings last week in the Parliamentary Committee of the County Council, it was decided that this Motion now before the House should be put down without any reference at all to the Council as a whole. That was carried by a majority of 10 to 9, but the Parliamentary Committee had no power to pledge the Council. The hon. Member said that the Committee had instructions to do their best to get the Bills through which they introduced. He had searched in vain for any such mandate. What he did find was an instruction to the Parliamentary Committee to comply with the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, and yet they were now asking that one of those Standing Orders should be suspended. As to the majority of 15 on the Council, of which the hon. Member had made the most, that was insignificant when it was remembered that the aldermanic vote was much stronger on the Progressive than on the Moderate side. The question before the House was very simple. The County Council brought in a Bill enabling them to work the tramways which they had acquired. Then it was pointed out that the Bill was contrary to the Standing Orders of the House; and the County Council coolly asked the House to suspend the Standing Order, which was passed less than three years ago, and which might be considered, therefore, to embody the most recent deliberations of the House on the subject. The Standing Order provided that the Committee of the House might insert a clause into a Tramway Bill to the effect that if a local authority were unable to demise its tramways on such terms as in the opinion of the Board of Trade would yield the local authority an adequate return, the Board of Trade might give the local authority a licence to work such tramways. That provision ought to satisfy the London County Council, for the President of the Board of Trade was known to be very friendly to the County Council, and would readily accede to the application. It was said that the Council could not find a lessee to pay an adequate rent for the line. That was not surprising. There were a little more 894 than four miles of line which the Council wished to lease for a short term, and those four miles part of a large system of tramways. The hon. Member for Shore-ditch (Mr. Stuart) said that the view of the majority of the Council was that of business men on a business matter. His experience of the old Council and of the present majority was that it was by no means composed entirely of business men, but included a great many theorists and faddists and gentlemen who had not the least appreciation of matters of business. The hon. Member also said that the Council only wanted the power of working the tramways, and did not contemplate actually working them. The Council had never shown themselves backward in the past in exercising all the rights which had been given to them; and if the power now asked were once given, they would on the moment try the experiment of working the tramways. He predicted that the results would be most disastrous to the ratepayers of London. They had the experience of one tramway worked by a local authority—the Corporation of Huddersfield; and that was the only example which could be quoted. During the ten years in which the Huddersfield Corporation had worked the tramways there had been a loss of £37,442—a loss which fell upon the ratepayers. Why did not the London County Council follow the example of the Liverpool Corporation, which had expended £240,000 on the laying of tramways, and which received a rental of 10 per cent. on the outlay? That would be a much better plan of dealing with the ratepayers' money than speculating in horses and tramcars. The Moderates had been accused of championing monopolists. He appreciated the new-born zeal of the hon. Member for Shoreditch for private enterprise, but the majority of the County Council had shown in years past a desire to do everything to stifle and choke private enterprise. The Moderates wished to encourage private enterprise, without which what would London or England be? But they believed that in checking the attempt of the majority on the Council in their present endeavour they were acting as the champions of the ratepayers' purse. This municipalisation of everything the County Council could get hold of must tend to an increase of the rates. Why 895 should the Standing Order be suspended? A plain answer could be given. If the House determined to suspend the Order he was satisfied that every local authority in the country would come to the House and say they desired the Order suspended. He did not see why the London County Council should have any different treatment to the great Corporations in the provinces. He asked the House not to part with the restraining power which they had in their hands now and which had been imposed so recently.
§ MR. J. W. BENN (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, that if this were a case of dealing with one tramway company the Standing Order might meet it, but in London there were unfortunately no less than eight tramway companies. While under the Standing Order the County Council might be successful in coming to terms with one or two companies, they might in all probability be at variance with the rest and be unable to deal with the whole tramway system in a satisfactory manner. The London County Council had endeavoured to so arrange their tramway business that the whole or nearly the whole of the system would come into their hands in four or five years' time. The hon. Member for Marylebone posed as the champion of the ratepayers. Let him direct attention to a few figures, which proved that concern for the interest of the ratepayers was rather on the other side. The Council had an offer some time ago for a 21 years' lease of one-third of the London tramway system. They found that, without the assistance of this measure, the best they could get from the tramway companies was something like £60,000 a year in the shape of rental.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE
presumed the figure was the hon. Member's own. If it was an advisers, would he name that adviser?
§ MR. J. W. BENN
said, that if the hon. Baronet had been a member of the old Council he would not have asked the question. The figures were arrived at after communication with the North Metropolitan Company.
§ MR. J. W. BENN
said, it had to do with one-third of the tramway system of London and of lines extending some 896 35 miles. Against the £60,000 rental they found the net earnings of the tramway companies of London at the present time amounted to £210,000. There was thus a balance of £150,000, and what the Council were fighting for was power to drive a fair bargain with the tramway companies, so that the ratepayers of London might get a share of the £150,000.
§ MR. J. W. BENN
said, if the hon. Gentleman would confer with him afterwards he would satisfy him on all points. The matter had been referred to as if it were a fad of the Progressive Party. It was really nothing of the kind. It was the outcome of a like Bill which proceeded from the great Corporations of the kingdom, and was suggested by one of the leading Conservative Members of the London County Council. It was in no sense a Progressive fad. He thought they got at the secret of the matter from the following paragraph in a circular issued by the North Metropolitan Tramways Company to the electors advising them to vote for the Moderate candidates at the recent election:—If such a power were granted, it would seriously diminish the value of your undertaking, and under these circumstances I would strongly urge upon you not only to vote for, but to use your influence on behalf of, the Moderate candidates in this district.This was a case of "one good turn deserves another." He hoped the Instruction would be agreed to by an overwhelming majority.
§ *MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
thought the House, and certainly the Opposition, were indebted to the hon. Gentleman for his candour and straightforwardness. The hon. Member had gone into elaborate calculations which, if he accepted in their integrity, which, if he believed them to be as correct as he believed them to be incorrect, proved one thing beyond all question, namely, that the desire of the supporters of the Instruction was that the London County 897 Council should enter into possession of the tramways for the purpose of working them. The hon. Member for Shoreditch disclaimed any intention of working the tramways, and of course he accepted the assurance of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. COHEN
was sorry his hon. Friend receded somewhat from that position. That made him all the more inclined to say he did not think there was a shred of confidence to be placed in the expressed intentions—he would not say of the hon. Gentleman because he had disclaimed it—of the Progressive majority of the London Comity Council. His reason for saying that was that there could not be any consistency—he had almost said sincerity—in the reasons they urged for the protecting Instruction they asked the House to pass. It was said the Instruction was needed in order that the hand of the London County Council should not be forced in negotiating for these leases. He assured his hon. Friends opposite that if he believed the London County Council would be, in could be, in any way damaged in negotiating the leases, he would not only not oppose but he would support the Instruction. The very contrary was the case. The Council were protected by the fact that, as soon as they satisfied the Board of Trade that they were unable to get reasonable terms from their suggested lessees, they would be armed with the power hon. Gentlemen proposed to endow them with. He regarded the intervention of the Board of Trade as absolutely essential for the economy, if not for the pure and honest management of the tramways. He did not suggest for a moment that the past, present or future London County Council could in any way be amenable to any corrupt influences of any kind, but he thought the House would see that to expose popularly elected bodies to the pressure which hon. Members knew constituencies would exercise was unwise in the highest degree. It was said only on Tuesday by Mr. Charles Harrison that the House, of Lords decided that it should be open to the Council to work the tramways. The question of working the tramways was never before their Lordships and was never pronounced upon by them. The right of working the tramways 898 had been prohibited by Parliament, and that right ought not to be restored in this case without cogent and irresistible reason; and certainly not upon the absurd pretext that it was necessary to protect the London County Council in negotiations in regard to the tramways with possible lessees. He was surprised at the boldness with which some hon. Members had urged that they were urging this question in the interest of the London ratepayers; considering that Mr. Charles Harrison, the prime mover in this project for having the tramways worked by the County Council, had his majority of 1,373 reduced to 872 at the last County Council election; that his hon. Friend opposite had his majority reduced by half, and that two other Members prominent in the business one of whom was the Chairman of the Highways Commission at that moment—were absolutely rejected by their constituencies. He said, therefore, that with those facts before them it was misleading the House of Commons to say that the issue was presented to the ratepayers, and that the answer of the ratepayers was that they were in favour of the working of the tramways by the London County Council. He was absolutely convinced that such a project would mean the introduction of unbusinesslike and un-remunerative principles into the working of those undertakings, at the expense of the ratepayers and in conflict with their decision as pronounced at the recent election.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OR TRADE (Mr. BRYCE, Aberdeen, S.)
said, he would not enter into the internal conflicts of the London County Council, with which the time of the House was unhappily so much occupied. The simple question before the House was whether, in the case of a Bill of the London County Council, they should suspend a particular Standing Order which gave power to the Committee on the Bill to allow a local authority to work a tramway only on the condition of leasing, or of endeavouring to lease, that tramway to some company. The Standing Order enlarged the power of the Committee, but it did not give them unlimited power to enable local authorities to work the tramways. It had been suspended in a considerable number of cases; and in three cases— 899 Glasgow, Plymouth, and Huddersfield—the local authorities were working the tramways, because they had not been able to get leasing terms satisfactory to themselves. It appeared that local authorities could generally succeed in getting round the clause, and work the tramways themselves, if they took the trouble to do so; but, on the other hand, if a local authority desired to lease a tramway, the clause threw some difficulties in their way. But the question now before the House was whether there were any reasons why the Standing Order should be suspended in the case of the London County Council. The hon. Member for Shoreditch had given certain reasons why the case of London should be favourably considered. It was pointed out that there were 30 miles of tramways which the County Council had already obtained the right to work; and that unless all the tramways were brought under the same system there would be difficulties as to transit and as to the interchange of fares, which in the interest of the people it would be well to avoid. That was the position of affairs. He would merely further point out that in Glasgow the tramways were worked by the municipality with very satisfactory results. [Cries of "No no!" and "Hear, hear!"] He was told by the Lord Provost of Glasgow that such was the case.
§ *SIR A. K. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, he could speak with practical knowledge and experience of the results of the working of the tramways in Huddersfield by the Corporation. It might be that there was a balance against the Corporation in the working of the undertaking; but he thought the hon. Member for Marylebone must have somewhat exaggerated, though unintentionally, no doubt, the figures which he had quoted to the House.
§ *SIR A. K. ROLLIT
said, he still thought his hon. Friend was under some mistake, but whatever, within any reasonable limits, the balance of the income account for 1894 might be, he could 900 say, as a ratepayer of Huddersfield, that public opinion was strongly in favour of the tramways being worked by the Corporation because of the great benefit it had conferred on the community. As an instance of the development of the undertaking, he might mention that, by an arrangement between the Corporation and the Post Office, the tramways collected the letters in the town and carried them to the outlying districts, and vice versâ. He knew that the general feeling of the Corporation, as well as that of the ratepayers, was that the working of the tramways by the municipality had conferred advantages on the community which were well worth whatever loss might have been sustained in the cost of working the undertaking. He, too, had had a conversation with the Lord Provost of Glasgow on the subject of the working of the tramways in that city; and he could say that the statement of the President of the Board of Trade was in strict accordance with what he had been told by that gentleman. The municipal corporations were practically unanimous in desiring that the powers asked for by this Bill should be conferred upon them; and they had passed a resolution to that effect through their representatives, and had prepared a draft Bill with that object. They thought the Standing Order was unnecessary and embarrassing to them; and surely Local Authorities knew best local wants and requirements, and how they could best fulfil their duties and obligations. For these reasons, and with the object that there might be another precedent for such municipal powers, the Corporations desired him to support this question being at least left to the discretion of the Committee after hearing the facts and arguments.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said, it was manifest from the speech of the hon. Member for Shore-ditch that the London County Council did not desire this privilege in order to make use of it, as they had no intention or wish to run the tramways themselves; but they desired to have in their hands a weapon or instrument which would give them a power over the tramways Companies in any negotiations that might take place.
§ MR. STUART
said, that, as to the views of the London County Council in 901 regard to the question, of working the tramways, he had no authority to say anything at all.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, that the hon. Gentleman might not have meant to say it, but that he did say it, was beyond doubt. He thought that in a matter of this kind, in which there was a bargain to be made between parties, Parliament should not interfere in favour of one party or the other, but should occupy an absolutely impartial position. As to the general merits of the question whether Corporations should work the tramways, he admitted there was a great deal to be said on either side, and they should endeavour to keep an open mind in regard to it. But there was one reason against it which the House would do well to keep constantly in view, and that was, that if they were going to give Municipal Corporations not only the possession of the tramways, which he thought they ought to have, but the right to work them as a commercial concern, they were going to bring them into direct competition with private enterprise in the way of 'buses and cabs. Though he put the rights of Corporations as high as his hon. Friend the Member for Islington, he thought it undesirable that the whole weight of the public purse—the whole weight of the rates—should be brought to bear in a competition possibly against existing private undertakings. That was all he had to say on the general question. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Islington, that Local Authorities knew what was good for them better than the House or the Government. But if it were desirable to get rid of the Parliamentary control in this matter which now existed, surely it should be done by a general rule of the Act, and not left to be brought up time after time in a flagging House, when on one day, by a majority of 15, a particular Corporation would get the power, and the next day by a majority of 15, another Corporation would be deprived of the power. If the thing was right let it be done once for all, and let it be done thoroughly. This control of which they were talking was claimed by the House of Commons in a Bill passed a few years ago, establishing the London County Council, and the regulation they were now talking 902 about was passed by the House of Commons only three years ago. Of course, if in the short interval that had elapsed, the House of Commons had changed its mind, by all means let it say so by means of some general legislation such as he had suggested. It was now 10 years since he was at the Board of Trade, and things had changed there as much as elsewhere. In his time it was a tradition of the office impressed upon him, and which he endeavoured scrupulously to fulfil, that the whole weight and influence of the office should be brought to bear against any private Bill which sought to undo for a particular place or a particular purpose the general law and what was the general practice. He was told there had been great infractions on these precedents in the last year or two. The House of Commons appointed a Special Committee, which might be almost called an expert Committee, carefully to examine the circumstances under which power should be given to local authorities to provide electric lighting. But that caused corporation after corporation, and company after company, to come to the House, each with a separate scheme. It was thus almost impossible that the House could give to individual schemes the attention they required, and the House decided, once for all, to lay down rules which all companies and all corporations should obey. He understood that at the present time there was before a Committee of this House a Bill for establishing electric lighting which set at naught altogether all the regulations of the House. Again he said he was not at all prepared to argue that these regulations were the best that could be made, and that experience might not show the necessity for changes. But he thought it would be a most disastrous thing if, time after time, on the score of an application made by this or that authority, they were going to allow the general regulations which had been more carefully considered than any single case of this kind could be, to be overridden by a private Bill.
§ *MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)
presumed that what they were considering now was the proposal by the London County Council that the Standing Order imposing certain conditions before a local authority could 903 take over the tramways, should be suspended in order that they might obtain power to work the tramways without complying with the conditions interposed by the Standing Order. There was involved in this question a broad issue. If the House yielded to any application submitted to it on behalf of the City of London, it would be impossible to deny that right to any other Municipality which might bring forward any analogous claim, The point they were considering, therefore, was whether it was advisable or in the general interest that they should give to Corporations the right to supply locomotion to their ratepayers at the public cost. It appeared to him absolutely necessary that the House should consider carefully before they proceeded to legislate in such a direction, and deal with the subject in a general and broad aspect. Were they to give powers to Municipalities without restriction? Were there to be no defined borrowing powers, and no regulations as to fares? They should consider such matters before, embarking upon legislation which might have the effect of inducing a Municipality to undertake the running of cars under the cost price of such conveyance. It would be absolutely essential from a business point of view that the House should make certain provisions by which it would be impossible for Corporations to convey passengers below the actual cost and to charge the loss upon the rates. Allusion had been made to the City of Glasgow, but it was premature to say one word as yet as to the success or otherwise of the tramway operations at Glasgow, because the finances of the city were so complicated. He felt it his duty to oppose the Bill promoted by the Glasgow Corporation which came before the House some little time ago, on account of two clauses to which he took great exception. But there were other clauses in that Bill which he suspected, for, whatever the intention, he seriously believed they might have the effect of concealing from the public the actual cost of the working of the tramways. It was believed in Glasgow that the Corporation had borrowed about £400,000 in order to provide for the tramways, but it was said they had no parliamentary authority to so employ it. They had, no doubt, in Glasgow splendid new cars, at fares 50 per cent, lower 904 than before. But was it to be supposed that, under the generous, benevolent management of the Corporation, they were going to make a profit at fares 50 per cent. below those which afforded only a small margin to a company before? He did not believe that it was possible for any Corporation to achieve results such as were achieved by individuals working for their own advantage, and who conducted their business more economically than could be done by a Corporation. He submitted that it would be wise and proper for this House to interpolate carefully devised yet reasonable conditions before they allowed Municipalities to have the conduct of tramway operations at the cost of the rates.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
observed that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, to whom he generally deferred on matters connected with municipal policy, had imported into the Debate two matters which, from the point of view of London, ought to be replied to. The right hon. Gentleman suspected as a probability that if the London County Council had the exceptional power which he (Mr. Burns) denied that this Motion imposed upon it, that then he could concede the possibility of the Municipal Authority owning and working trams, in the exercise of that monopoly possibly restricting the freedom of living and employment of the men who worked cabs and rival omnibuses. The city of Birmingham owed a good deal to the right hon. Gentleman for having put a stop to private enterprise when that was opposed to the municipal and sanitary interests of his own city. The Corporation of Birmingham owned and leased the tramways, from which they enjoyed annually a net profit of £6,000. Surely the right hon. Member for West Birmingham would not deny to the city he so ably represented the right, if by a vote of the Town Council they so decided, to terminate the present condition of ownership and lease, and in the interest of the people of that city to work the trams without the direct intervention of a private company? He was sure that in such a case the right hon. Gentleman would take up the attitude he had taken up before, namely, that Municipalities, ordinarily speaking, should have the 905 power to dominate over their own municipal destinies. He could conceive it possible that Birmingham, as in the case of Huddersfield, might undertake to lose a certain amount of money by the working of their own tramways, and if by so doing the housing of the people and the sanitary accommodation of the city were improved by that small loss. The right hon. Gentleman had said that when he was at the Board of Trade the traditions of that Department were against the locality having powers which others did not enjoy. That was perfectly true. When Corporations came to that House to obtain power to own their own gasworks, they invariably did so by means of private Bills. It became so inconvenient for the House to be continually discussing Bill after Bill, that, for the benefit of every locality that wanted to purchase its gasworks, this duty was delegated, under certain general conditions and regulations, to a Committee upstairs, with the result that 198 gasworks were now owned by local authorities. The same course was subsequently followed in the case of waterworks and electric lighting, and when the demands for working or leasing tramways became as numerous as the applications in respect of gas and water undertakings had been in the past, then he was sure that House would refuse to any local authority the right to come to the House and discuss these matters, which were much better left to the Committee upstairs under the general instructions and conditions. He wanted to point out to the House that the London County Council practically asked, by the suspension of Standing Order 171, that it should be allowed to place itself in the position that Glasgow, Huddersfield, and Leeds were now in. Why should Glasgow have, either by private Bill or provisional order, powers to own and work its own tramways, and a Bill to effect the same object for London not to be allowed to go to a Committee upstairs? What the Board had to determine to do was to show that this big city of five millions should not labour under worse conditions than were applicable to Glasgow, Huddersfield, and Leeds, and he believed hon. Members would subordinate their politics so as to allow the municipal authority to carry out their policy, which, since the recent 906 election, had been endorsed by 70 votes to 55. He would appeal to the hon. Member for Dulwich, who had so worthily interested himself in cheap workmen's trains, not to stultify his action by declaring by his vote that the London County Council should not have a right to provide workmen's trams. He hoped the House would vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Shoreditch.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
opposed the motion. He thought it very undesirable that the County Council should undertake to work the tramways. They were already overwhelmed with work, which, moreover, was of necessity increasing, and yet the hon. Member for Shoreditch wished them to work the tramways, and later on the water supply. The real leaders of the Progressive Party went even further; they wished to municipalise, or rather monopolise, almost everything; they wished the London County Council to manage the Secondary Education of London, to undertake the Hospitals, to work the Docks, to superintend the Port, to keep the Pawnbrokers Shops—and in fact, in their view, the ideal of the Millenium would be that the population of London should consist of 118 Councillors, 19 Aldermen, and 4,500,000 County Council employés. They wish to turn the London County Council into a gigantic trading concern. This policy was condemned by the electors at the last election. The motion in the Council in support of the policy advocated by the hon. Member for Shoreditch was only carried by a very narrow majority of the electors. He believed that a large majority of the representatives of London in the House of Commons were opposed to the motion, and he hoped the Government would not again use their majority in a matter affecting London to override the wishes of London members. Of course, if the London County Council could not get any company to work the tramways, it might be necessary, however undesirable, that they should do so themselves. That was a very improbable contingency, but it might arise, and it had been fully provided for. In such a case the County Council could apply to the Board of Trade, and the Board of 907 Trade could grant them permission to work the lines until some reasonable offer were made. That fully met the case. He thought it very undesirable to increase the ever-growing army of County Council employés; the County Council were already overwhelmed with work. He felt sure they would make a loss if they attempted to work the tramways, and would still further raise the rapidly-increasing rates of the Metropolis.
§ *DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)
, as a Ratepayer in London, said he might claim the right to speak on the merits of this question, but that was not his object in rising. He wanted to know on what grounds London local questions claimed so much of the valuable time of the House. Only three or four days since, the Leader of the House informed the Scottish Members that he could not find time to introduce one or two Bills on Scottish legislation. Yet London Members came down here week after week and took up the best time of the House with their local affairs, and he as a Scotchman, pining for Scottish legislation, protested against this as an abuse of the privileges of the House. He wished to know whether it was not on the part of London the adoption of all the privileges of Home Rule, while they denied equal rights to Scotland.
§ The House divided—Ayes 191; Noes 158.—(Division List No. 41.)