HC Deb 03 March 1898 vol 54 cc442-9

Motion put and Question proposed— That the Bill be now read a second time.

MAJOR F. C. RASCH (Essex, S.E.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in order to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. I am very sorry to trouble hon. Members with a discussion on a Second Reading of a private Bill, because I know perfectly well how irksome and uninteresting discussions on Bills of this nature always are, and therefore, I will compress my remarks within the very smallest possible space consistent with my duty to my constituents. This Bill is promoted by the London, Tilbury, and Southend Railway. It is a line which runs from Fenchurch Street in the City to Shoeburyness, and the line, with the exception of 25 miles, runs entirely through the division which I have the honour to represent, and therefore hon. Members will understand that my constituents and myself have an extensive and peculiar knowledge of the railway, and of everything connected with it. The Bill is of the usual railway Bill character. It is an omnibus Bill, in which they take power to make level crossings, to go over roads, make connections and arrangements with other companies to build sea walls, and so on, and my constituents and myself hope that the House, having given to this line rights which it has misused so miserably in the past, will hesitate before they give them extended powers in the future, and I may say, from my own experience, that this line running, as it does, with the exception I have mentioned, through the whole of my constituency, there is not a man—not one single man—from whom I have inquired, from Rainham Marshes to the North Sea, who does not hope that the House of Commons will throw this Bill out. This is the wish of the men who live on the line. By whom is the Measure supported? It is supported by hon. Gentlemen in this House who know nothing whatever of the district, and have no interest, so far as I can see, with the line in any way whatever. The hon. Member for the Lichfield division of Staffordshire lives 100 miles from this district, and knows nothing whatever about the matter, excepting that the line runs through some portion of suburban property which happens to belong to him. Of course, in that case, he has a right to have something to say with regard to the Bill. The second name on the back of the Bill is that of my hon. Friend the Member for the Harwich division of Essex. He lives 20 miles away from this district; he knows nothing whatever about it, and he has no interest in it. His interest is that of being a director of the line, and I presume his interest is therefore the natural interest of a proprietor, and I venture to say to hon. Members that the interest of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich will not be exercised for the benefit of the farmers, the working men, and the agricultural labourers who live along the line, but will be exercised in favour of the shareholders and the directors whom he represents. There is one other Gentleman's name on the back of the Bill, and that is the name of the hon. Member for the Northern Division of Paddington. He knows nothing whatever about Essex, or about the country, and beyond being the contractor for the line, he knows nothing whatever about the district or its wants. He is interested in the promotion of the line on the side of the Company, and not by any means on the side of the population whom I have the honour to represent. I do not wish to trouble the House of Commons with too many details. We have any amount of petitions and remonstrances against this Bill. There are many large towns situated on the route of this line, Southend, Grays, and so on. The Corporation of Southend has communicated with me, and desired me to respectfully inform the House that they have been endeavouring to make terms with reference to this Bill and cannot do so. The Company propose by this Bill to block up a private footway which is used by the whole of the inhabitants of Southend. The London, Tilbury, and Southend Railway wish to take this away entirely, and give no compensation for it whatever; not only no compensation but no compensating advantages. They have been endeavouring to induce the Company to do away with level crossings, and I may say that this is par excellence the line of level crossings. When this line was before Parliament, Parliament, in its wisdom, knowing that the line would run through an uninhabited stretch of country, allowed level crossings to be made all along the line, but now it is by no means an uninhabited stretch of country, for there are houses, factories, villages and farms, which make it as populous as any in England. The Corporation of Southend desire me to oppose this Bill in consequence of the level crossings which they have endeavoured to induce the Company to obviate, but, I regret to say, without the slightest effect. A man was killed on this level crossing a little while ago, and the Corporation wrote to the Company about it, and the reply of the Secretary was to the effect that if people got on to the level crossing when trains were approaching it was no fault of the Company if they were killed. That I characterise as a very unfeeling reply, and the only way to deal with people of that sort is to throw out their Bill when it comes before Parliament. Then, again, they are interfering with another of the local authorities at Tilbury. Tilbury Docks, as we all know, is rather an important place now-a-days, and by this Bill the London, Tilbury, and Southend Railway Company propose, without the slightest compensation, to take away one of their slipways and make another of these objectionable crossings, and the inhabitants of Tilbury, through me, respectfully beg to submit to this House that if would be to their interest that the Bill should be thrown out. Then we come to the large manufacturing town of Grays. Grays is a town which did not exist 25 years ago, but now it has a population of 20,000 people. It is a purely manufacturing town, inhabited entirely by artisans. Grays is a place which is unknown to hon. Members on this side of the House, but it is particularly well-known to hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, because they frequently come down in order to do myself and my constituents the honour of expressing their views. In this town of Grays the objection to this Bill is that the Company have absolutely refused to raise the height of their parapets to such an extent as will prevent the little children from falling over on to the line, which they have been constantly doing lately. In the centre of the town of Grays there is another level crossing, and every 10 minutes of the day for the whole of the 12 hours of the working day the traffic of this large town is knocked on the head in order to allow this Company to run their trains—simply in order to save the expenses of this Railway Company—a Railway Company whose shares hon. Members must bear in mind are at a premium of 30 per cent., and pay 6 per cent. dividends. Yet they will not put their hands into their pockets in order to make a subway and build a bridge. There is another instance. A very few miles away, at a place called Rainham, there is another of these level crossings, and there was an accident there, and when the Board of Trade communicated with the Company, asking them to substitute for the level crossing a bridge, the Secretary of the Company declined to do anything of the sort, and sent what I consider to be a most impertinent letter on the subject. I do not wish to pile up the agony, or to worry hon. Members into voting against this Bill. I will only say, in conclusion, that, of course, there are many other arguments which I could use. The rates on this line for agricultural produce are simply enormous, so much so that the Railway Company is, I am told. going to reduce the charges which they have been in the habit of making. I will not refer to the insanitary sheds at the stations, or the dog-kennels which are provided for the working-classes who use this line to travel in. I know, Sir, full well that I am leading a forlorn hope. I know, Sir, that the railway interest in this House is omnipotent, and, although they quarrel very much among themselves, yet they are always ready to join hand in hand in order to protect the interests of each other. I suppose we shall have the opposition of the right hon. I Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, and, I know, of course, that I am fighting a rich corporation, and I know that I stand in the position of Athanasius against the world. For all that, I should like to recapitulate what I have already said, that I really do represent the territory through which this railway passes. I know all about the district, and my constituents know all about it, and we desire that the House should not give the Bill a Second Reading. The constituents whom I represent here are for the most part agricultural labourers and artisans. They are poor men. Their local authorities are poor, and they cannot afford to pay lawyers to go before a Committee upstairs. All that we have to rely upon is my poor advocacy and the fairness and justice of this House of Commons. I beg, Sir, to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.


formally seconded the Motion by raising his hat.

*MR. J. ROUND (Essex, Harwich)

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely hope the fact of my being a director of this line will not prejudice me when I ask the House to take the ordinary course of sending this Bill, which is an omnibus Bill, before a Committee upstairs, where the several points which have been raised may be dealt with in the usual manner. My hon. Friend has made one of his usually effective speeches, and has made some strong statements, which I should like to reply to by the leave of the House. He has said that he does not know one single man in favour of this Bill—in fact, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman said he did not know of a single man who would not bring every opposition to bear against it—but I have not heard of a single man express an opinion against the Second Reading of this Bill, excepting my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Essex.


I said there was not a single man from Rainham Marshes to the North Sea who did not object to the Bill.


I have not heard a single word of opposition either from Rainham Marshes or even from the North Sea. I think, Sir, that my hon. Friend describes the railway in very unfair terms. It is an old railway, with very large capital, and it serves a very important district, and I believe it has the lowest fares of any railway near London. This is a Bill brought in with the object of making certain improvements. Anybody who will look at it will see that that is the case. It also is a Bill which raises additional capital, and it also proposes to subscribe to a new undertaking—a Bill which was passed last Session for building a new railway from Bow to Whitechapel, and which will also assist in serving this important district. I gather that what my learned Friend wants is some crossings to be done away with, and some bridges built, for which this Bill does not provide. It does provide some, and if it does not go so far as my hon. Friend wishes, that is a matter which can be attended to in Committee, but which certainly does not justify his speaking so strongly against it as he has done. Of the two places that he has mentioned, and which he represents in this House, namely, Tilbury and Southend, Tilbury has not petitioned, and Southend has presented a petition. Why have the Corporation of Southend presented a petition? Because there is a question of the construction of a bridge over a level-crossing, and that, so far as I know, is all that there is between the Corporation of Southend and ourselves. It is merely a question of terms, and I submit that such questions as the question of the substitution of a bridge for a level-crossing are questions for the Committee upstairs, and I do submit. Sir, that the House will take a very exceptional course if it does not allow this Bill to proceed upstairs and be examined there in the usual manner. I think my hon. Friend was rather unhappy in his description of my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire. He said that the hon. Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire knew nothing whatever about Essex. Why, there is no one who knows more about Essex than my hon. Friend. He is a member of the County Council, a resident in Essex, and possesses a large estate in that county. I do not think I need trouble the House with anything further. I submit that the ordinary form to take is to send this Bill upstairs, and I ask the House to do so in the usual manner.

MR. T. C. T. WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

I am not myself in favour of Railway Companies who do not do their duty, and I am afraid that, as a rule, the Railway Companies throughout the country do not do their duty, but in the matter before us there is a counterbalancing claim in the case, because it includes the connection with the suburbs and the surrounding country with this great and crowded city of London, and that is a very great object, which has for its purpose the prevention of over-crowding in London. There are certains objections to every Railway Bill which is brought into this House, but I think the House will see that the objections which the hon. and gallant Member has urged aginst this Bill are objections which ought to be dealt with in Committee, and if the hon. Member is not satisfied with anything that the Committee may do, let him move the rejection of the Bill upon the Third Reading. But, I think the points he has raised are distinctly points for the Committee to investigate, and certainly are not points upon which the House should be asked to throw out the Bill on Second Reading. Of course, if I had been prominently connected with this Company in any way, I should have taken no part in the promotion of this Bill, because I think it is absolutely wrong for a director or a shareholder to have anything to do with the passing of a Bill in this House. I hope that this Bill will be passed.


The House will have observed that my hon. and gallant Friend speaks of things which are not in the Bill, and he asks the House because the Bill does not include certain matters, that it should be rejected, but there can be no question, I think, that it is to the interest of the travelling public that this Bill should not be thrown out because my hon. and gallant Friend tells us that there ought to be a bridge instead of a level-crossing.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I moved the rejection of the Bill because of certain matters which were in the Bill.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not particularise the points in the Bill to which he objected. He certainly did say that there were certain objections coming from certain local authorities on the line, but I am quite certain that the House of Commons will consider that the objections that he has raised are objections that ought to go before a Committee. If there are these great objections, let them go before a Committee, let them be examined, and let the Bill, in the interests of the travelling public, be amended if necessary. With regard to level-crossings, I may say we have heard nothing of any of them on this line since 1892. I do not think, at any rate, that any representations have been made to the Board of Trade since that time, and further, we know of no act which has rendered any of the level-crossings dangerous to the travelling public. If it is shown that any of these level-crossings are attended with danger to the public, it is within the power of the Board of Trade to order their removal. The Act of 1852 empowers the Board of Trade to do that, but we should not feel ourselves justified to order the removal of a level-crossing unless it was shown to be absolutely necessary. I think the House should give this Bill a Second Reading, and let it be amended in Committee if necessary.

Question put— That the Bill be now read a second time.

The House divided—Ayes 132; Noes 36.

Bill read a second time and committed.

Forward to