HC Deb 05 May 1898 vol 57 cc352G-82

Order for Second Reading read.

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

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. E. Boulnois.)

MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

It may be for the convenience of the House that I should very shortly give some explanation as to the character of this Bill. It is a Bill for bringing a tramway across Westminster Bridge, and carrying it along the Embankment, past Charing Cross, towards Blackfriars Bridge, thus bringing the traffic which is now landed on the other side of the bridge across the bridge. There is an important feature in connection with this Bill, and that is this: that it has been already passed by this House. In 1891 the London Tramways Company brought in a very similar Bill, which was thrown out in this House, and in the following year the London County Council brought in a Bill similar to the one which was thrown out, and also similar to the present Bill, and that was carried in this House by a small majority. The majority of the previous year which threw it out was about 35. It was carried by a majority of two in the following year, in a House of about the same size. Of course, it then went before a Committee of this House upstairs, and they passed it. There was one Amendment made in Committee—namely, that the tramway, instead of being carried along the Embankment as far as Charing Cross, was stopped opposite the end of the Horse Guards' Avenue. The Bill, in that form, went to the House of Lords, where it was thrown out by the Committee. Briefly, that is the history of what has taken place in connection with this important legislation, and therefore in bringing the Bill before the House again, in a modified form, the London County Council is asking the House to pass a Bill which, in one form, they have rejected, and again, in, a slightly different form, they have passed. It is now brought forward in a form very slightly different from that in which it was previously passed. There are two points in the Bill which I would bring before the attention of the House. In the first place, the object of the Bill is to bring the traffic across Westminster Bridge; and in the second place, it is to carry it along the Embankment. I would ask the House to remember that those are not necessarily bound up one with another. That point would be clearly a matter for the Committee to decide, as to where the line should be stopped. Of course, this House is pretty familiar with the objects of the Bill, and naturally it is very familiar with Westminster Bridge. There is a good deal said against the Bill, I know, in private conversation, on account of the increase of traffic which will ensue at this end of the bridge if the line is brought across. But I would very much wish that honourable and right honourable Gentleman would take the trouble to see what happens to the traffic on the other side of the bridge. Across the water the vast population which comes off these tramways is in a very difficult position, as any Member may assure himself of if he cares to take the trouble to look. This is exactly a point which a Committee of the House would go into and settle, and they would see whether the contentions which I am putting forward are correct or not. There are a very large number of persons who come from the south of London across Westminster Bridge daily to their work. We have had figures taken of the number of persons who crossed the bridge in 1892. They have not been taken since. Between the hours of eight in the morning and eight in the evening on a day in 1892, when we had them counted, there were something between 20,000 and 30,000 passengers crossed the bridge, the great number crossing northward in the morning and southward in the evening. That large numbers of people—many of them shop assistants, and others working in the Strand, in Regent Street, and the City—especially the City—have to get out of the tram- cars on the further side of the bridge, and cross it—very frequently, I am sorry to say, owing to the numerous changes in our climate—in rain or snow or wet or sludge, of some kind or the other, which incommodes them very much during the rest of the day. If they can be brought across the bridge into the neighbourhood of the Underground Railway they would be saved a certain amount of discomfort, which they can only get rid of now by expenses which they are not very well able to hear. With respect to the promotion of this Bill, the London County Council has brought it in because of the pressure that has been brought to bear upon it by persons on the other side of the water. We had a petition to the County Council some time ago, which I mentioned when I spoke last upon this subject, which is signed by some 60,000 or 70,000 of the inhabitants on the other side of the water. That petition pressed the London County Council to take up some such undertaking as that which I am now advocating. We have communicated with the authorities on the other side of the water, and I will tell you those who are favourable to the undertaking. There is the Battersea Vestry, Newington Vestry, and St. George the Martyr; Bermondsey takes no action in the matter, and the Local Board of Wandsworth is against the Bill—I wish to give the whole thing perfectly fairly to the House; and the vestry of Lambeth is in this position: it supported the Bill of 1891, and the Bill of 1892, which is practically this Bill, but in the case of this Bill, it appears on a petition against it. That position is taken under very peculiar circumstances. It objects to the Bill on one point only, and that is that we do not ask for power to work the tramways in connection with the other tramways on the other side of the water. If we did that it would enable the vestry of Lambeth to get rid of a certain amount of refuse. If we had done that the vestry of Lambeth would have been prepared to withdraw its opposition to the Bill. I may say at once, however, that for the London County Council to have adopted that course would not have been in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House, as anyone familiar with the Standing Orders will see. There is another objection to the County Council taking that course, and that is, that it would affect the future of tramways which we might possibly acquire sooner or later. The vestry of Lambeth is in no sense opposing this Bill generally, so far as I can make out from the correspondence. It is not opposed to the making of the tramway across Westminster Bridge. I think I have given to the House the position of the local authorities on the other side of the water. Now, as to the London County Council itself. The London County Council passed a resolution to proceed with this Bill in the middle of last year—that would be the late County Council—the usual time for passing these matters. A very large number of members who are Members of this House and of the London County Council—men of both sides of politics—voted in favour of this Measure. That shows that it is not a Party Measure in any sense of the word, and has never been regarded as such. The whole position I take up before the House in the matter is that this, owing to the circumstances which I have described, is a Bill which may very fairly be sent before a Committee. The House must remember that a Committee of this House has passed a Bill which is practically the same as this, and therefore we are only asking the House to send it up again to a Committee, which may consider it under the altered circumstances. There are altered circumstances. In 1891 and 1892 the London County Council stood more or less alone in the matter of tramways. Since that date the Council has obtained further powers with respect to tramways, and the whole policy has become perfectly settled and perfectly definite, and the consequence is that we are creating a tramway here, or should be creating a tramway here, which would be in continuation of the other tramways which we have practically settled to acquire. Under these circumstances, I think there is ample reason for wishing Parliament to reconsider a Bill like this, and for expressing a hope that this House may send it up to a Committee, so that it may judge upon its various merits or demerits, which will be urged on the one side or on the other, for or against the Bill. It is usual for the House to send up Measures of this description for consideration by its Committees, and there are only two points which I will allude to for a moment, and then I will sit down. Whatever may be one's views as to the right or wrong system of working tramways, whether or not a local body like the County Council should do it, it is absolutely essential that the power of working them should be in the hands of the local authority, in order to enable it to make a proper bargain with the companies who may be working them. The House, perhaps, is aware that it has itself given to the County Council the same power of working their tramways as are possessed by the tramway companies themselves. In the Vauxhall Bridge Tramways Bill the same power was given as is asked for in this Bill. It was urged against this Bill on a previous occasion that it was inadvisable that a tramway should cross the river. But that point has been settled, because the House has already passed in the Vauxhall Tramways Bill a Measure for carrying a tramway across the river, and, therefore, the general principle on that point is no longer one which is open to discussion. Those are the two points that I wish to call attention to in respect of this Bill. Further than that I have no more to say, beyond asking the House to give this Bill a Second Reading and send it to a Committee upstairs.

MR. E. BOULNOIS (Marylebone, E.)

I have often heard some very clever speeches from my honourable Friend and colleague, and, although he certainly has got a bad case to deal with in this Bill, he has made a very able apology on behalf of the London County Council in favour of this Bill. I am aware that the authorities of this House are not in favour, as a rule, of intercepting a Bill from going to a Committee. They view with disfavour any attempt of that kind. For my own part I think it is better and fairer that all private Bills should go before Committees, in order that they shall be threshed out, because it is quite clear that the House is not a suitable body for dealing with such subjects. But there are exceptions, and I think this is one of those Bills where exception should be made, and the House should deal with the policy which the Bill advocates, and refuse to allow it to go before a Committee. The description of the Bill is very fairly given by the honourable Member for Shoreditch. He says, quite truly, that it proposes to cross Westminster Bridge, and then turn at right angles and go down the Embankment to Blackfriars Bridge. The honourable Member for Shoreditch says it is a Bill brought up in a modified form from that which was passed by the House in 1892, but which did not become law, in consequence of the action which was taken in another place. The only modification that I can see is that, instead of the tramway being compelled to stop, as it was made to do by the action of the Committee upstairs, at the end of Horse Guards' Avenue, which is this side of Charing Cross, it is now made to go the whole length of the Embankment and stop at Blackfriars Bridge. My honourable Friend has given the particulars relating to the approval or opposition of the local bodies on the Surrey side of the Thames. There are only a few that are absolutely in favour of the tramway, but he did not tell the House, as I will tell the House now, that all the local bodies on this side of the river through which the tramway proposes to pass are against the Bill, and no doubt if the Bill was read a second time and sent upstairs to the Committee, these objectors would have an opportunity of being heard, and of stating their objections before the Committee. But I think it is rather hard that we should have to pay on the rates the expenses of the London County Council in promoting the Bill and the expenses of these local bodies in opposing the Bill. The greatest number of people who live on the north side of the river are not in favour of the Bill, and they have no opportunity of being heard before the Committee of the House of Commons, because they have no locus standi, and it is on their behalf that I move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months, in order that the House may prevent this unnecessary and wanton Bill from going any further. I say it is unnecessary, because a tramway which is put down to cross Westminister Bridge is really of no use if it turns at right angles and goes down the Embankment. Logically, it should go to Charing Cross, and up Regent Street, or along Piccadilly. I do not know whether honourable Members favour that idea, because it is extremely difficult now to get to the House sometimes, as it is, and with tramways passing and repassing it would be much more difficult. I say that the Bill is unnecessary for this reason also. Anyone who has been on this side of Westminster Bridge and noticed the people crossing will have seen how very few of them turn to go along the Embankment. My honourable Friend has mentioned 20,000 who use the bridge. I suppose he means pedestrians; and he has accurately described their sufferings in walking over the wet, muddy sludge, which they have often to encounter in crossing the bridge. My sympathies go with those people to that extent, and I am very sorry for them. But they do not turn to the right at the foot of Westminster Bridge. They pursue their way to Charing Cross, and do not go eastward at all. Anyone can see that not more than five per cent. of the pedestrians crossing Westminster Bridge turn to the right and go along the Embankment. The Embankment really is for swift traffic, and when it was opened it was astonishing to see what relief it gave to the Strand in that respect. For my own part, I believe that if a tramway were put now along the Embankment, the cabs and carriages would resume their ride along the already congested Strand instead of continuing to take the Embankment, because, if there is one thing more than another that a cab-driver, or any other driver, hates, it is a tramway. There is another proof of the truth of what I say in the fact that during all these years that the Embankment has existed no proprietor of omnibuses—the London General Omnibus Company or the Road Car Company—has thought it advisable to run omnibuses along the Embankment; and the House knows as well as I do that omnibus proprietors are not slow, as a rule, to find out routes on which to put their omnibuses, which are largely used by the public. More than that, it is quite certain that the tramway companies on the other side of the river, if they had thought there was any prospect of taking any number of passengers along the Embankment would have long since started those convenient halfpenny omnibuses in that direction, those 'buses which we see every day going in the direction of Charing Cross, and loaded with some of these 20,000 people from the other side of Westminster Bridge of whom my Friend spoke. Besides, nobody who wanted to go into the City from the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge would ever attempt to cross the bridge. If you look at the map which has been sent round to all of us this morning, you will see what an enormous bend the river makes after passing Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge and beyond; and anyone on the Surrey side of the river would save at least half a mile by turning to the right on the other side of the bridge, and thus reaching Blackfriars Bridge, or whatever his destination in the City might be. I see in the statement which has been sent out by the London County Council that they make a great point that there is an enormous congestion of traffic where the tramway lines end. I believe that there is a congestion; but I believe that if the tramways were brought across the bridge the congestion would be removed to this side of the river, because the bend of the tramways is at a very short angle indeed, and looking at the traffic which comes along Parliament Street already, I think anyone will see that, where there are constant tramways passing or repassing, the traffic would become much more congested, and we should find that there would be much more congestion outside these Houses of Parliament than there is on the other side of the river. Then there is the artistic point of view, which I will leave to other Members to deal with who can do it much more justice than I can. I will only observe this, that all of us are justly proud of Westminster Bridge and the Embankment, and I think we all ought to be grateful to the old Metropolitan Board of Works for having left two such monuments behind them. When the Metropolitan Board of Works ceased to exist, some nine years ago, the London County Council took their place, and since that time has done absolutely nothing whatever to beautify and improve London. [Cries of" No, no!"] I hear one or two "No, no's" from the other side, but I should like to hear details of any beautifying works.


I must remind the honourable Member that this is a question of tramways.


I am sorry I was led into a discussion on that point by the other side. But I do say this—that if the London County Council axe now actually going to destroy and disfigure what their predecessors did it will be a great pity. We live, I know, in a utilitarian age; but the destruction, from an artistic point of view, of one of our finest and most modern bridges, and of an esplanade, if I may call it so, which is second to none in the world, would only be justified, in the first place, by public interests, and, in the second place, by conferring a real benefit upon the people of London. I maintain that neither of these considerations exists in this case; and, more than that, that the general public, so far from being in favour of this scheme, are absolutely averse to it. The House of Commons last week, by an overwhelming majority, rejected a scheme which had for its object the spoiling of the approaches to and the appearance of the Houses of Parliament. I trust that to-day we shall have as large a majority in protecting Westminster Bridge and the Embankment, and the Houses of Parliament, which I think all admit form one of the finest features of our great river. I will not detain the House any longer. I sincerely hope that this useless, unnecessary, and wanton scheme will be rejected by a very large majority.

SIR JOSEPH WHITWELL PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

In seconding the Motion, I may say that I have been one of those who have watched the development of Westminster Bridge and the Thames Embankment with some interest. I happened to be one of the Select Committee of this House some years ago to whom was committed the case of apportioning the land of the Embankment between rival claims, and in laying out the building line for occupying that land (which was then derelict), and doing what we could, as Committee of this House, to maintain and improve that which was really brought into existence by the making of the Thames Embankment. I may say I am one of those who have consistently voted in favour of the principle of private Bills going up to Committees, in order that all their details may be fully examined into; but I believe with my honourable Friend opposite that there are many cases in which Bills should not go before Select Committees. This is not merely a simple London question for the benefit of the people of London alone. London is the metropolis of this country, which not only exists for the benefit of those who are here from the country occasionally, or for those whose habitual residence it is, but London belongs to all the people of England and to all English-speaking people; and we do hope that some of what have been called the amenities of London will be preserved from what I may describe as acts of vandalism, and it is on this ground that I oppose this tramway. I do not believe for an instant that the London County Council wishes to do anything but what they think would facilitate the traffic of the metropolis, but I believe that this Bill will be inimicable to the traffic of the metropolis. There is another reason against this scheme. It happens that in these days in which we now live great assemblages of people meet on this Embankment in order that they may marshal themselves to go forward to Hyde Park to speak of matters of what they consider to be public interest, and if you make tramway lines and allow tramcars to pass up and down this Embankment, and to go through all these people who assemble there, they will greatly disturb them in the formation of their processions and create danger and disorder. After all, we come back to the question of what is best for the metropolis as a metropolis in which we are all interested. I have a very strong feeling indeed that there is no public necessity for this Bill in regard to the passage of individuals to and from employment. I do not think it is at all necessary for that purpose to make a tramway across the best bridge over the river Thames and along the Embankment. I have also had to do with Committees sitting in connection with public improvements in the Strand. Those public improvements must before long be carried out, and that portion of the Strand where there is generally a considerable block in the traffic is that portion which will shortly be improved, and which will open a still better road to the city. If you look at the Thames Embankment as a road from the west to the east you cannot do better, in my humble opinion, than leave it as it is at present—a road for wheeled traffic of all kinds—leave it as a place which is material to the glory of the great City of London. Do not deprive it of a charm which it necessarily has not only for us who only dwell here occasionally, but for those who dwell here constantly, and which would be absolutely destroyed if this Bill were allowed to pass.


As the representative of one of the districts of South London, I may claim to have some interest in this question. I understand that a whip has been sent round this morning bearing the names of a number of Members who are in favour of the rejection of this Bill. I noticed, however, that few of them had any connection with London, and none of them—with one exception—any connection with South London, and this is manifestly a scheme in the interests of South London. Amongst the objections which are put forward in that whip I find, first and foremost, that it is alleged there is no necessity for this scheme. That was the point generally urged by the honourable Gentleman who spoke opposite. He referred to the disfigurement and mutilation of the bridge, but I fail to see how a couple of tramway lines, laying flush with the roadway, can have any material effect on the architecture of the bridge, We Englishmen, of all people in the world, we, the most practical of nations, ought to be the last to complain of the fact that the bridge would lose any beauty by giving facilities for passenger traffic. We find that in Paris, which, I presume, is as beautiful a city as London, the tramways run through the very best portions of the city and down the very best avenues. We find, moreover, that the roads on their embankments, right and left of the Seine—the Quai d'Orsay and the Cours la Reine—have tramways along them, and we find that quite recently the Municipality of Paris has decided to run a tramway down the Champs d'Elysées. The æsthetic side of the question may be put out of sight. It is further stated in these objections that the relief to the. Strand and other thoroughfares will be injured. But one of the objects of this Bill is the relief of the Strand, because a number of persons who now go viâ the Strand would then go viâ the Thames Embankment to the City. Another of the objections is this, that a tramway over Westminster Bridge would greatly obstruct the large and continually growing traffic across the bridge. Why, at London Bridge you have four continuous streams of traffic, and that traffic is regulated almost as if it were laid down on tram lines. Again, the objectors say that the bridge is too narrow for tram traffic. That is a question which the London County Council, who are taking this scheme in hand, have had put before experts. You have 53 feet of roadway, and 16 feet will be taken up by the tramway, leaving 37 feet for the remainder of the traffic. It is also urged by these objections that the bridge is the means of access to the Waterloo Station of the London and South Western Railway Company, and that the making of a tramway across the bridge would interfere with those going to that station. Does that mean that the entire population of South London is to be inconvenienced because a certain number of persons who can afford to go in carriages only require, perhaps, to go once a year when Ascot races are taking place—to Waterloo Station? Is this a question of the convenience of the units who ride in carriages and cabs against that of the scores who ride on tramcars and omnibuses? It is said that if this line is made across Westminster Bridge there will be a great block of traffic in Parliament Street. But the honourable Gentleman who made that objection will be relieved to hear that it is not to be supposed that the tramcars will stop immediately opposite this House, or even opposite St. Stephen's Club. They will necessarily be stopped several yards farther up the Thames Embankment. The great block of traffic, which is not only inconvenient but dangerous, opposite St. Thomas's Hospital is due to the fact that the roadway there is particularly narrow. The Thames Embankment is three times as wide, and therefore it is far more suitable as a terminus for the tramway than the present one is. The sixth objection to the making of this line is that the large proportion of foot-passengers over the bridge are not working men. That is an absolutely false statement if you take the term working men and working women in its broader sense. By far the greater number of those who pass over Westminster Bridge, and who are persons who dwell in South London, are clerks, warehousemen, shop assistants, and such like workers, male and female. It would be distinctly a great boon to them if, instead of being obliged to leave the tramway system on the other side of the bridge, they could by means of this extension of the tramway be brought to a point where they could tap the underground railway and the omnibus lines running eastward. I shall be told about the halfpenny 'buses to Charing Cross. During the last 12 years I have crossed Westminster Bridge during almost every hour of the day and night. I do not mean in the early hours of the morning, but at a very late hour at night—say, from seven in the morning until, perhaps, one in the next morning. I have crossed that bridge over and over again, and I know that when the weather is unpropitious it is an extremely difficult matter to get a 'bus, and it is next to impossible to get a cab. I repeat that it will be a great boon to the working classes to be able to travel right across, the bridge in the tramcar. We are told, Sir, that only about 5 per cent. of the pedestrians who cross the bridge turn to the right, along the Embankment, and for a very clear and good reason, too. No working man goes along the Embankment, because time is of infinite value to him. He works long hours, and takes a considerable time in going to and from his work, and along the Embankment at present he has no tramway, omnibus, or vehicle of any sort or kind, of which he can take advantage should he desire to go that way. My contention is that a tramway along the Embankment would prove a great relief to the traffic along the Strand. At a meeting of working men held at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, resolutions hostile to the scheme were passed. Why, Sir, in less than a week I could get demonstrators from South London against the Bill which would fill the Memorial Hall 20 times over. I said "demonstrators against the Bill." I meant to say "demonstrators in favour of the Bill." But, however it may be, if any such meeting as that described did take place at the Memorial Hall, it must have been what is commonly known as a "bogus" meeting. To say that the working men of South London are opposed to this scheme, honourable Members must know, is positively a false statement. Will the Members for Brixton, Peckham, Camber-well, Walworth, Lambeth, and Kennington rise in their places and condemn this Bill? I think not. [Two honourable Members—Mr. H. M. STANLEY, Lambeth, N., and Mr. BANBURY, Camberwell, Peckhamrose in their places.] I am delighted, because, as the honourable Member behind says, I have succeeded in "drawing the badger." I am glad that the electors of the constituencies represented by those honourable Gentlemen will now see how far they consult the convenience of those who sent them here. It has not been urged on this occasion, but it was urged in a former Debate, that this would be doing a very great injustice to the District Railway, because many years ago the District Railway paid £200,000 for the privilege of running a line beneath the Thames Embankment. But surely the people of London did not for the sake of £200,000 give away the right to use the upper portion of the Embankment? Of one thing I am convinced, that, although this Bill may be rejected on this occasion by the House, before many years it will undoubtedly pass.


The reason that I speak in this Debate is that I was requested last summer to head a deputation to the Westminster Vestry which was successful in inducing that body to pass a resolution in opposition to the Bill, and in determining them to present a petition against it. A great deal has been said about South London, but I think the interests of North London should also be considered; and there can be no doubt that if this tramway once gets across Westminster Bridge we shall then hear that it is a cruel shame that it should be stopped there, and we shall have pointed out to us the tremendous congestion of the traffic as a reason why we must extend it along Victoria Street, Great George Street, Birdcage Walk, and Constitution Hill to Hyde Park Corner, as being in a straight and direct line. We shall be told that the people of South London want to go that way in order to enjoy the air of Hyde Park, and also we shall be asked to extend the tramway lines, and, with a much greater show of reason, up Parliament Street, through the grand new thoroughfare, and so on to Regent Street. Now, all the constituencies north of the Thames are decidedly hostile to this Bill. If this were only a working man's question we should have to consider fairly whether the rights at present enjoyed by those who are not working men should stand in the way of the convenience of a large number of people. I do not know whether this is a working man's question, and I can only say that, having taken the part which I have described in regard to the deputation to the Westminster Vestry, I have been approached by a very large body of working men, and asked to continue in my opposition to this Bill. The reason they put forward for that request was this, that it is of the utmost importance that the working men of London, especially the people of the East End of London, should be able to demonstrate in favour of various causes, and that any such traffic as proposed by this Bill, would interfere with meetings on the Embankment, and would prevent the proper organisation of the demonstrations—that it would seriously interfere with what they consider to be a decided right and advantage; and they, therefore, say that this Bill should not be proceeded with. I will not go over the grounds which have been taken up by the previous speakers; I only confine myself to those two reasons. As a general rule, I always vote in favour of a Bill going before a Committee upstairs. Having had some experience as a Parliamentary agent, I have naturally every sympathy with those gentlemen who will materially suffer if this Bill is thrown out. But this Bill is not a matter of detail, it is a question of principle, and on a question of principle I am not in favour of leaving it to four gentlemen on a Private Bill Committee, however eminent they may be. For the reasons which I have urged, I trust the House will reject this Bill.

MR. G. T. C. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

So far as the question of tramways is concerned, I can quite understand that it is a personal question. Those of us who ride on tramways like them, and everybody else dislikes them. But, on the principle that we have given our sanction to them in the past, it is clearly obvious that we must extend them in places where they are wanted. I had the misfortune to vote for this Measure some years ago, and I shall do the same to-day. Although, of course, I do not care to see the tramways along the northern part of the Thames—where, by-the-bye, I live—the fact remains that this tramway will be an enormous advantage to a great proportion of the people of this great city of London, and will increase the means of locomotion to those who live south of the Thames. We cannot get away from that fact, and it seems to me that this question divides itself into three parts. There is the question of doing away with the congestion on the other side of the bridge. Those of us who have passed along there know perfectly well that this tramway terminus on the other side of the bridge is an extremely dangerous place. The horses, by a somewhat old-fashioned system, are turned round, and the whole traffic of the roadway is continually stopped by this arrangement. It has been urged that Westminster Bridge will be completely spoiled by the trams passing over it. I really think that to be an exaggerated statement. It cannot be more injured by the trains passing over it than it is by a series of omnibuses, and, although we may not care very much about it, there is no doubt that for people to be shot out of a tramcar on a wet day on the other side of the bridge, and to have to find their way afoot across the bridge, is a serious state of affairs, which I think we are bound to alter. Then it is said that the Embankment should not be spoiled. In my constituency we have tramways on roads so narrow that it is really impossible for a carriage to pass between the tramcar and the kerb. If ever there was a road absolutely fitted for the purpose of tramways, it is the Thames Embankment, and although I personally enjoy using the Embankment very much, and should be personally sorry to see these tramways, still it is obvious that they must go there. We have sanctioned tramways in almost every part of London, and it does seem to me to be rather absurd that we should endeavour to prevent them from going down the Embankment, because they would come near to this House. Whether we pass this Measure to-day or not, it is quite clear that the tramways will have to come over the bridge before very long. It is quite clear that they will have to go along the Embankment, and therefore I shall certainly support the Second Reading of this Bill. As I said before, many of us do not like it, but in London we must do our very best to extend and increase the facilities for locomotion in every possible way.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

The London County Council which has introduced this Bill is the local authority, and in that capacity is mainly responsible for London traffic. I venture to say that if the Corporation of Glasgow or the Corporation of Liverpool were providing a similar Bill to this, Members on both sides of the House would defer to the suggestions of the local authority in the matter of regulating the traffic of its own city. I think that the House of Commons will do well to ignore any personal objections that its Members may have, and will deal with this Bill as they would with the Bill of any municipal corporation by sending it upstairs to a Committee. Every Member of this House must be acquainted with the extraordinary growth of the London traffic, the congestion of that traffic in some streets, and particularly the dangerous congestion which exists within the precincts of this House. This state of things is due to one of two reasons—reasons which the House of Commons is mainly responsible for. What do we find? From Kensington Town Hall to Westminster Bridge, through St. James's Park, the Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens—owing to the privacy of these public parks—the traffic from the west is diverted round Piccadilly, down Cockspur Street, to Parliament Street, to get over West- minster Bridge, and the effect of that is to bring to the corner of Parliament Street a large amount of traffic that is dangerous to legislators and inconvenient to the general public. In order to minimise that to some extent the London County Council proposes that the traffic in Parliament Street shall be lessened by taking the traffic from South London over Westminster Bridge, down the Victoria Embankment, which is relatively unused, and discharge that traffic at points like New Scotland Yard, Charing Cross, the Temple, and, finally, at Blackfriars Bridge. If that were done we should have much relief to the traffic going from south to west by Parliament Street, and from east to west over Westminster Bridge. There would also be great relief to Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street, the Strand, and Parliament Street. It is for these considerations that this Bill is mainly introduced. What are the arguments against it? We have heard the argument of the legislative Sam Weller from the Member for Marylebone, who used the stage coach argument that Sam Weller senior would have used 70 or 80 years ago; but beyond an objection to 'buses and trams, what the average coachman, especially the conservative coachman, feels, there was no single argument in the honourable Member's speech. I venture to say that the House of Commons has only got to go to the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge and see the struggle that the people have to get in and out of the trams to be convinced of the necessity for this Bill. Honourable Members, when next they go to Henley, to Ascot, and to Goodwood, will observe that, through the tramway having its terminus on the Surrey side, Westminster Bridge is frequently blocked with cabs and other vehicles, and the effect of that is to cause a danger to life and property, and to be a disgrace to the local authority, which cannot by any means, especially if this Bill is rejected, prevent that condition of things from continuing. It is in order to prevent it that we propose that the tramways shall stop, not at the Surrey side, as they do now, but shall be allowed to go over Westminster Bridge, and discharge at one, two, three, or four points upon the Embankment. First let us deal with the passengers who come from the south, the south-east, and south-west of the Surrey side of the water—generally speaking, not very rich people. They are people to whom a penny or twopenny ride is a very serious consideration. What is the result of the present state of things? In this country we have much weather, but very little climate, and it is a great consideration to shop girls, and especially to working women, that they should not be turned out on the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge to wrestle with Government clerks for a halfpenny 'bus, and in many cases to walk over the bridge and get wet through, and stand in their wet clothes for an hour or so. From mere humane considerations this Bill ought to pass. We go over the bridge to Parliament Street, and what do we see there? We see that Parliament Street is getting more and more congested. But why is it so congested? It is congested because the tramways discharge their passengers on the Surrey side, and because they are not allowed to cross the bridge and discharge them at various points along the Embankment. The Tramways Company have put on 30 or 40 halpenny 'buses that are responsible for certainly half of the congestion—the dangerous congestion which exists outside this House. I suggest that if these tramways came over the bridge these 'buses would be discontinued, and that obstruction would be removed to that extent. Now I come to the aesthetic objections to the Bill. I do not see how a straight line of rails down the Embankment will affect the view of the Embankment in any respect whatsoever. I cannot see how it will affect the bridge, and I cannot understand Members who wanted the Westminster Improvement Bill passed objecting to this Bill on the ground that it will interfere with the aesthetic view of the Embankment. Let us deal with the practical details of the Bill, and I think that is the chief thing to deal with. I believe that the Thames Embankment is wide enough for the swell who drives and for the poor man who rides. I believe it is wide enough for the prosperous stockbroker in his hansom cab and the prosperous journalist in his private carriage. What is the width of the Embankment? From wall to wall it is about 140 feet wide. The roadway is 90 feet wide, and if this Bill is allowed to go upstairs to a Committee there will be one or two suggestions made in order to suit the conveni- ence and the objections of honourable Members, as to which way would best suit the public generally in the location of the tram lines. We could either have the tram lines near the gutter on each side, letting the vehicular traffic go in the middle of the road, or we could put the tram lines down the centre, and leave the vehicular traffic to the sides. Seventeen feet only will be occupied by the tram lines, and that will leave a width of road available for vehicular traffic wider than Victoria Street. There will be 73 feet of roadway clear for cabs and other vehicles, whether you have the rails on the side or in the centre, and that is sufficient to enable both sections of the public to have their respective conveyances. Then we come to another argument used against this Bill, and that is that demonstrations will be inconvenienced. I thank honourable Members opposite for their sympathy to demonstrators. It is the first time in their lives that they have ever expressed such a feeling, and incidentally they express that sympathy for the first time when their own convenience is likely to be affected. Anyone who knows anything about demonstrations (and I know very little) will find that in the largest demonstration we have ever massed on the Thames Embankment, you could run a double tram line down the centre and there would be sufficient room for the processionists, as any competent police officer would be able to tell. But I am told that there is another class of persons who object to the tramways, and that is the class who think that the Metropolitan Railway Company may be affected if this healthy competition is established. Then we are to understand that the modern æsthete is in favour of blow-holes for the dividends of private companies, but is not in favour of tramways for the riding public. If our beautiful Embankment can be vandalised by the Underground Railway, with its stinking blow-holes, poisoning the air, and making a hideous eyesore to the Embankment, which I should like to see removed—if that can be done for private profit, are we to listen to æsthetic objections to a tramway, when these objections come from shareholders or directors of the Metropolitan Railway Company responsible for these abominations? The objections to tramways are mainly senti- mental, and the objections to this Bill are perhaps made to gratify a prejudice against the London County Council. But I believe that the House of Commons will put itself above the personal or the prejudiced view, and will look at this Bill from the point of view of what is best for the convenience of millions of people. I say that these people demand a tramway over Westminster Bridge. They demand that you should not turn people out on the Surrey side in wet weather and cause them to walk across the bridge. I am positively convinced of this, that, if the tramways are allowed to go over Westminster Bridge, the county council, as the bridge authority, will see that the tramway lines are kept in the best possible condition, as good as they are on the Clapham Road—which are admirably kept—and if this Bill passes and the tram lines go down the Embankment we may be able to kill two birds with one stone by taking up the macadamised road when the tramway is laid, and putting down a fine hardwood pavement from one end to the other—a pavement that would give the cab rider that splendid smooth ride and the private carriage rider the beautiful ease to which we should like to accommodate them. But, whether that is done or not, two millions of people in the south of London demand it, in the interest of the men who work, and who produce the wealth of this city; and if the West End of London were polled, and if the people of the West End had to choose as to whether their occasional inconvenience should weigh against the daily, material, pressing personal wants of the people, I believe that they would subordinate their personal inconvenience and æthestic feelings, rather than that men and women should be subjected to the daily and hourly inconvenience which they are now caused. In the interests of the vast majority of the people of this city who demand this great boon, I ask, with some confidence, that this Bill should be sent to a Select Committee in the ordinary way, so that the London County Council may be enabled to deal with the traffic of London to the satisfaction of themselves as the local responsible body, and to the convenience of the travelling public.

MR. GRAY (West Ham, N.)

This is a Bill which I think the House not only can deal with, but ought to deal with. The site is one which is known to every Member of the House, and the conditions of life around it are also well known. That being so, it enables us to deal with this proposal as we dealt with the Westminster Improvement proposal. The House ought to intervene in dealing with this Bill, and ought not to allow it to go to a Committee, because if it passes through this House we should shortly have the county council asking to use the roads of the west of London, and under these circumstances it becomes the duty of the House to deal with the matter at once. I do not propose to recapitulate the arguments which were so well brought forward by the honourable Member for Marylebone. In my opinion, he made out an overwhelming case against this Bill, and I am hopeful that the House will throw it out to-day with a majority as emphatic as that which rejected the Bill a few days ago. Assuming that there is a need for bringing the tramways across the bridge, then, without doubt, the direction that they should take would not be along the Victoria Embankment, but round Parliament Square, along Victoria Street to Victoria Station, turning off to the right along the new road which we are about to construct along Whitehall, taking passengers from the south of London to Trafalgar Square, and the shop girls—for whom the honourable Member opposite speaks—to their shops in. Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus. There is not a single road throughout the whole length and breadth of London better served than the Thames Embankment in the matter of traffic. Anybody who wishes to go from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars would never dream of travelling along the Embankment in an omnibus or tramway, whilst they had the Underground Railway at their disposal. The fact of the matter is that anyone who has watched the traffic over Westminster Bridge as I have done for 20 years will find that it does not bear off to the east—it goes more or less westward, or uses the Westminster Bridge Station of the Underground line. What will happen if the trams are brought across Westminster Bridge? It is said that will not be a terminus; but I say that of necessity it will be a permanent stopping place for everybody that comes across, if it is to be any good at all. Every tramcar crossing the bridge will have to stop at the foot of the bridge, and those who are familiar with the permanent stopping places of trams know what that means. These will be horse-drawn cars, and there will be mess and filth and stench all day long right at our very front door. The House will recollect that, when we were passing a Bill dealing with motor-car traffic, one of the arguments was that it would minimise the amount of horse traffic in London. I have often opportunities for watching what is transpiring at tramway stopping places, and it is my experience of what occurs at them which determines me in opposing the creation of one here at our own very doors. Those who desire to cross Westminster Bridge under cover can avail themselves of omnibuses crossing there, without adding to the disfigurement of Westminster by putting a tramway line down. There is one argument which has not been referred to. If it be assumed that this Bill is opposed in the interests of well-to-do journalists and Conservative coachmen, then the honourable Member who thinks that has quite mistaken the position. This is one of the very few Bills that have come before the House as to which deputations of working men have come here opposing the passing of the Bill, and I refer to a class of working man whose comfort desires consideration—those who have to spend their whole working day in the Strand and Fleet Street. Let honourable Members go down the Strand or Fleet Street and see the hundreds of young men having their luncheons under uncomfortable conditions—standing at public-house bars, and so on—and then watch them as they go to the Thames Embankment for fresh air—the only place where they can secure an hour's quietude, an hour's comfort. I do not refer to the well-to-do journalist, who can take refuge in his club, but to the man who has had to labour at his desk all day long; and it is he who cornea to the Lobby and asks his Member to vote against this Bill, because his chance of getting a little tranquillity during the day will be destroyed by the traffic which will pass along the Embankment. If I am asked for evidence as to what representatives of the Press think of this scheme, I can only say that out of their own contributions they have provided a fund for petitioning against the passing of this Measure, because it is a well-recognised place of resort for those seeking peace and quietness. Those who have had any experience of the Strand and Fleet Street know that it is a common practice to gravitate to one of the finest promenades that London possesses—a promenade which this Bill proposes to spoil. Reference has been made to replacing the macadamised road by a wood pavement, but my opinion is that if the London County Council once gets a line along there for their trams there will be no wood paving. The experience of other places will be repeated, and we shall find the macadamised road turned into a hard, noisy stone paving, not only resulting in the destruction of the Embankment from an aesthetic point of view, but resulting also in ceaseless noise and constant turmoil. If there is not to be ceaseless noise and constant turmoil, then that is a clear argument that the line is altogether unnecessary; for, if it be necessary, it will be used all day long. The passing of this Bill will not only result in spoiling the site immediately opposite this House, it will not merely be destructive of the approaches to the river, but it will prove to be the thin edge of the wedge, and a thin end that the House ought to very closely watch. If you once get lines across the bridge, then, in twelve months, we shall have a further Bill for taking them along Victoria Street, Whitehall, the Strand, and some of the finest thoroughfares that London possesses will be utterly destroyed. We have here near to us the two ends of two magnificent thoroughfares—Victoria Embankment and Chelsea Embankment. In a few years we may hope to see them united, and I most sincerely hope that we shall not be taking the step we are asked to to-day, and, running a tramway along the Embankment, spoil that prospect for ever. The traffic along there and over Westminster Bridge can well be met by omnibuses without this needless and vexatious line being made. I trust that we shall without hesitation reject this Bill, and I feed quite certain that if that is dons my London friends will be heartily glad to find that the House of Commons has set its face against it.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I am rather sorry that this Debate has been made to turn into something of a class question. The honourable Member who has just spoken has based his objection to the Bill largely on the inconvenience to Members of this House, or partially on the inconvenience it will cause to Members of this House. If this House stood in one of the most central portions of London, and then the honourable Gentleman had said that the making of these tramways would be a nuisance, I could have accepted his argument; but I do not think that any Member of this House would be justified in objecting to this Bill on the ground of any inconvenience it might cause to Members of this House. Then there is my honourable Friend the Member for Battersea. He has put great force into the class argument. If I thought that the argument was well founded, I confess I should have found it impossible to go into the Lobby against my honourable Friend. His argument amounts to this: that the working classes, men and women, are deposited on the other side of Westminster Bridge in all kinds of weather, and are compelled to get out of the tramway, and either walk across the bridge or get into an omnibus. I regard that as a very strong argument indeed; but it is an argument from which I deduce two consequences: one in agreement with my honourable Friend, and the other in opposition. I am agreed with him in thinking that there is a strong case made in favour of bringing a tramway across the bridge, but I do not agree with him in the further consequences that will follow, and that brings me to the argument of the honourable Gentleman the Member for North Islington. His argument proved too much. He says that, having allowed tramways elsewhere, how can we object to this one? The reason I object to this one is because I think there are certain conditions of London that will be absolutely ruined Now, with regard to the argument of my honourable Friend about people having to get out of tramways on the other side of Westminster Bridge, what does that lead him to? If the trams come to this side of the bridge they will have to get out there, too; and as their destination is often the West End of London, they would not be in the least bit better off by the line going along the Thames Embankment. I know South London almost as well as my honourable Friend. I lived in it for years. I stumped nearly every part of it during various elections, and I know that what happens is that the traffic in the south of London divides itself into two streams—the one going east to the City, and the other going to Westminster Bridge, and then on to the West End. The latter part of the traffic will go to the West End by the present means, whether you have a tramway on the Thames Embankment or not. One of my chief objections to this Bill is that I dislike the idea of the Thames Embankment being destroyed, and I say that on æsthetic grounds, and I am not ashamed to do so. We ought not to be afraid in this House of mentioning such a thing when the beauty of a locality being interfered with is under discussion. That is the kind of language used by those vandals who put trams—which my honourable Friend is such an advocate of—in the ancient streets of the beautiful metropolis of Paris, and have absolutely destroyed it beyond repair. The Thames Embankment plays a large part in the life of the working classes of this country. It is their playground, and ought to be made a playground more than it is. If I had my way there would be a half-dozen military bands playing along it every Sunday. I am afraid if I were a Scotch Member that that admission would go against me on election day. But that is the function which, in my opinion, this Embankment ought to play in the life of the working classes of this country, and if you are going to tear it up and destroy it by a tramway to this extent, you are destroying the possibility of its fulfilling that function. I have another objection. I know that a good many gentlemen are able to sleep in all kinds of circumstances. Everybody who has studied the life of modern cities must know that noise is one of their greatest curses. For that reason I will give my opposition to every tramway that goes beyond a certain portion of London. I have the benefit of some experience upon this question. Anybody who has lived in the city of New York has found a reason there against the extension of the tramway system to certain portions of the city. Why, Sir, Broadway is one of the worst streets in the universe, mainly because of its tramways. If you admit the system in London you will destroy one of London's greatest conveniences and greatest protections—namely, the facility with which it can get to certain portions of the West End of London. For all these reasons, notwithstanding the appeal of my honourable Friend the Member for Battersea, I shall vote against this Bill.

MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)

I only wish to say a few words on this subject. I object to this Bill on the ground so ably stated by my honourable Friend opposite. The people of South London who want to go to Blackfriars Bridge can already do so in a much shorter time than by going to Westminster and then down the Embankment to Blackfriars. The honourable Gentleman for Battersea, when he states that the shop girls are badly used by having to get into halfpenny 'buses, does not proceed to say that these halfpenny 'buses run down the Embankment. If he did that there would be some ground for his statement that a tramway down the Embankment would be a convenience. The halfpenny 'buses do not run down the Embankment. It is very evident that when they get this side of Westminster Bridge they would get either into a halfpenny 'bus or the Underground Railway. We must also remember that all along the Embankment there are underground stations which people can use, and when you get to the end of the Embankment you come to Blackfriars, which is of no use to anybody. People who go to Blackfriars go to the City. It is absolutely impossible to suppose that the tramway should be continued along Queen Victoria Street, because it is almost impassible to get along Queen Victoria Street as it is. There is also a large block at the end of Blackfriars Bridge, which will be intensified if it becomes a terminus for tramway lines. It is in the belief that this Bill offers no real advantage to the people of the south of London that I intend to vote against it.


We have heard that this Bill is put forward in the interests of the working men. That I deny. I say that nothing can be more detrimental to the working men who come from Hammersmith or Kensington than to do anything to compete with the already overburdened Metropolitan and District Railway. That railway is only ordered by this House to run one workman's train per day. As a matter of fact, it runs 35, and has carried 6,850,000 passengers. The honourable Member for Battersea has said that some 2,000,000 people are to be considered in South London. Here you have 6,000,000 working men already in possession, and are you going to do anything which would stop that train service from being carried out in the way it is being carried out? My experience as Her Majesty's Inspector of Factories, both in North Kensington and South Kensington, is that the working men do not go to their work to the City either by the Strand or by the Embankment, and if you go down there you will see that the class of people who do use it are certainly not the class of people for whom it is necessary to make a tramway. I hope, in the interests of the working men, that the House will reject this Bill. I am not at all in favour of the arguments of the Member for West Ham. They are absolutely against my convictions on this subject. The only subject I am at one with him is that the Bill should be rejected.

SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)

I wish to call the attention of the House to certain arguments which have not been used in favour of the Bill. It seems an extraordinary thing for a Member on this side of the House to be in favour of this Bill, be cause I have heard so many speeches against it. I have studied this question, and I am convinced that this Bill will be of great utility, and will do a great deal in preventing congestion of traffic in this neighbourhood. It is proposed that a tramway should go over Westminster Bridge and then down the Embankment by two lines of rails close together on the south-west side. That would not at all interfere with the traffic in any way that I can see. I do not at all appreciate the arguments which have been adduced by the honourable Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool about people being disturbed in their sleep. Nobody sleeps on the Thames who is likely to be disturbed by the trams running. The great traffic from the north and northwest to the south goes down Charing Cross and along Parliament Street. If the tramway were running over Westminster Bridge and along the Victoria Embankment to Blackfriars, the traffic would go down Northumberland Avenue, and then go to the south of London, and I am convinced that in that way a great deal of good would be done. I was myself opposed to this Bill. I have voted previously against the Bill, but I am now convinced that it will be a great advantage to the traffic of London if this Bill is allowed to pass, on condition that the two lines of trams were close together, on the south-west side of Victoria Embankment. Then the whole of the road on the northern side of the Embankment would be perfectly free for carriages. If that is done I am convinced that it will relieve this congested part of London to an enormous extent, and I fail myself to see any danger. I have read the evidence given by the police inspectors, where they say that certain stoppages would occur. I think that they are anticipating that the tramways are going to unburden right in the middle of the road on this side of the bridge, whereas what would be necessary would be that we should see that all the trams have to go a little way down the Embankment before they are allowed to stop, none being allowed to stop on the bridge. The police have the regulation of the traffic and they could easily manage that. The House will, in my opinion, make a great mistake if it does not give this Bill a Second Reading; if they did that, the suggestions which I have made, and which I think would tend to improve the Bill, could be properly discussed. Some people say that we do not want a tramway coming into the centre of London, but you must understand that if this tramway goes along the river side there are no streets to cross with the trams, and there is no traffic to interfere with. It would run straight along without interfering with anybody, and, with the lines running close together, would not in any way interfere with the traffic. I do hope that gentlemen on this side of the House will consider the arguments and points I have put before them. Speaking from the point of view of one who knows the Metropolis well, and who is in the habit of driving through the Metropolis a great deal, and who has a great many conveyances blocking up the thoroughfares, I think this would be a great improvement, and would do a great deal to unite the north and south of the Thames.

MR. KNOX (Londonderry)

Under this Bill the trams will be horse trams, and it would be beyond the scope of the Committee to alter that provision under the Standing Order, so that they must remain horse trams should this Bill pass. Now I consider that a horse tram is an anachronism, they would not be permitted in any other city in the world to be set up. The London County Council has absolutely opposed every attempt at electric street trams. They have refused to allow the existing trams to be equipped with electricity, they have refused to allow electricity to be used at all for trams, and under this Bill they provide that it is not to be an electric line.


The London County Council has under consideration the question of electric tramways, and it has been represented to them that the subject ought to be dealt with as a whole.


In other parts of the world this question has been dealt with as a whole. In every progressive city in the world, by private enterprise, electric tramways have been erected, and when my honourable Friend beside me alluded to a tramway down the Champs d'Elysée he did not inform us that that is to be an electric tram. But this is to be a horse tram, and there is all the difference in the world between the two. I would as soon think of voting for a rate-aided stage coach as for this Bill.

Question put—"That the word 'now' stand part of the question."

The House divided:—Ayes 129; Noes 248.—(Division List No. 87.)

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