HC Deb 14 March 1899 vol 68 cc681-723

(By Order.)—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. Pickersgill.)

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

I rise, Sir, to move the rejection of this Bill. Whatever view the House may take of this Measure-the amalgamation which it proposes is a subject which does concern not only the whole of the county of Kent, but it is also one which all of us must consider upon national grounds. The case which I desire to put before the House in moving the rejection of this Bill is shortly this: that it is a matter of national, almost international, importance that the short sea routes between England and the Continent should not be under the control of a monopoly. Now, the conduct of the promoters of this Bill has not been such as is likely to conciliate Parliament. Their conduct is not respectful to Parliament, for they have attempted to force the hand of Parliament in a manner which I hope this House will resent. They have not waited for the decision of Parliament, but they have anticipated that decision. And now, when these two companies-are practically already amalgamated, they come to this House and ask Parliament to legalise an arrangement which is already in operation, and to condone the gross evasion of the intention of Parliament of which they have been guilty. Since January last a joint board has been managing all the traffic of these two companies, but the promoters, in the preamble of the Bill, admit that their Parliamentary powers beyond the Continental agreement only enable them to make agreements in respect of competitive traffic. Now, what is their defence? They say that by each company merely giving to the other running powers over the whole of its lines, they have made all their traffic competitive, and subject to the control of the joint board. Now, I do not hesitate to say that this is a mere quibble, and it is a contention which will not bear a moment's serious consideration. To suggest that by a mere stroke of the pen, or by a mere paper concession, you can make traffic competitive within the meaning of the Act of Parliament which is not really competitive seems to me to be childish. If it is seriously intended, then I say the prospect which is opened to Parliament and the country is alarming enough, and alarming for this reason: very many of the railway companies of this country have Parliamentary powers to make agreements among themselves with regard to competitive traffic, and if the action of the promoters of this Bill is to be allowed to pass unchallenged, the logical conclusion would be that half of the railway companies of England would be able to make "working unions," to employ the new phrase, which are practically amalgamations, and to make those amalgamations behind the back of Parliament. This is not a straightforward amalgamation. The Bill proposes to establish a "working union" between the two companies for all purposes. Now, working agreements between companies for certain purposes are familiar enough, and we know what amalgamation is, but a "working union" for all purposes I think I may say is a new departure in railway legislation. So far as the public is concerned, this undoubtedly is an amalgamation, because it is provided that the two undertakings are to be worked, maintained, managed, used, and improved as one undertaking; but, at the same time, the companies desire to retain the advantage of separate existences in their relations with each other. In other words, the companies propose to be at once amalgamated and not amalgamated. I say that they are not entitled to have it both ways, for such an arrangement is a novelty, and I think it is decidedly detrimental to the public interest. Then, in the third place, this Bill runs counter to public policy, for Parliament in previous years has opposed amalgamations which were unfavourable to competition, and the promoters have recognised this feeling in the country, and this tendency on the part of Parliament, and have endeavoured to meet it. I do not think, however, that they have met it in a satisfactory way. There is, in my opinion, a fatal inconsistency in the attitude adopted by the promoters upon this point. They say that} the action of Parliament in relation to these two companies has been such as to preclude competition between them, and yet, at the same time, the very object of this Bill is to prevent competition. The honourable Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon made a speech in July last, of which he has been already, I believe, reminded, and of which probably he will be reminded again and again before -this matter is concluded, in which he said that under the arrangement prior to the formation of this company competition must ensue. As a matter of fact, this statement that the arrangement made by Parliament absolutely precluded competition is altogether contradicted by the recent history—the comparatively recent history—of the two companies. Now, what is that history only three or four year6 ago? In 1895 the late Sir George Russell became the Chairman of the South Eastern Railway Company, and then there was an outbreak of energy and a change of policy. A new service was established by the South Eastern Railway Company from Liverpool and Birmingham by way of Reading and Folkestone, and the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company immediately responded by establishing a through service, by an arrangement with the London and North Western Railway Company, by way of Willesden and Dover. The South Eastern Company started an afternoon train by way of Folkestone, and the Chatham and Dover Company responded by establishing an afternoon service by way of Dover. The Chat-ham and Dover Company got a newspaper train to Dover by 8.15 in the morning, and then the South Eastern Company discovered that they could get a newspaper train to Dover at the same hour. The Chatham and Dover Company found that they could do the journey in two and a half hours, and, therefore, the South Eastern attempted to do the same thing. These facts are sufficient to show that under the old system sanctioned by Parliament competition was not only practical, but that competition was on precisely the same lines as exists in other parts of the country, and such competition was actually established. Now, the promoters of this Bill have started a new theory of competition. They draw a distinction between competition in the county of Kent and competition with the county of Kent. They say that other ports will still compete with Folkestone and Dover for the Continental traffic, and of course that is true. This is a certain amount of protection, and it will always prevent any monopolist company in the South of England raising those Continental rates beyond a certain point. But that is not adequate protection, for this reason: the South Eastern Company, or any company in -a similar position, start with, this enormous advantage over all other ports— that it controls the gateway of the shortest sea routes to the Continent. It must, therefore, always have a very great advantage over the other ports to which the promoters of this Bill refer. It has been suggested that there is an alternative, and that it is not. necessary to reject this Bill or to refuse permission to amalgamate. It is put forward that there is the alternative of imposing conditions upon the amalgamated company. No doubt, if the House, in its wisdom, should sanction amalgamation, a determined effort should be made to take such security in the interests of the public, and an effort must be made, for instance, to bind the company down to provide a reasonable and adequate service of workmen's trains. Some effort should also be made to bind the company down with regard to the rates which they charge for agricultural produce grown in our own country. It is said that in giving preferential rates to foreigners the London, Chatham, and Dover and the South Eastern Railway Companies do not stand alone, and that is perfectly true. I do think, however, that they are among the worst offenders in respect of granting these preferential rates to foreigners; and if the House should be disposed to permit them to amalgamate, the opportunity of binding them down in some special way ought not to be lost. What I think is this: I do not place much reliance upon the so-called safeguards which the promoters of this Measure have introduced into this Bill. A safeguard in a Bill creating a monopoly is always largely nugatory and illusive. In the first place, you can only provide, at the best, for present circumstances. As the House well knows, circumstances rapidly change and new conditions arise, for it has happened in the past, and I think it will happen again in the future—that the best intended agreement at the time may, after a while, become absolutely a barrier in the pathway of progress. Parliament has recognised that in its general legislation with regard to railways by the provision that, where it gives power to railway companies to make arrangements with other com- panies, those agreements are revisable by the Board of Trade at the end of a period of 10 years. Now, what are the safeguards which are suggested? Under pressure from the right honourable Gentleman whom I see opposite, the company has expressed its willingness to introduce a new scale of maxima fares into the Bill. I question whether the scale of maxima rates has ever conferred any real advantage or protection on the public, and such a scale of rates certainly has not protected London in the case of the London water companies, and we may expect the same result with regard to the railways, for this reason— that the scale is always fixed—and I presume must always be fixed—too high to be any real protection, whilst, at the same time, there is a constant tendency to work up to the limit thus provided. Now, what is the concession which we are promised? As I understand it, the promoters of this Bill propose to introduce a scale in regard to first, second, and third-class fares of threepence, twopence, and one penny per mile. I do not regard that as much of a concession, for it compares very unfavourably with the scales imposed upon neighbouring companies, like the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, on the one hand, and the scale of the Tilbury and Southend Company on the other. And, further, it does not touch the main grievances at all of which passengers complain—namely, it does not touch the exclusion of third-class passengers from so many of the trains; neither does it touch the failure to give a reduction upon return fares, which is a great grievance of the passengers in connection with these companies. Now, I do say that the least that Parliament can exact from these companies in return for amalgamation would be a provision that the company shall carry third-class passengers by every train. Then the arguments on behalf of the promoters of the Bill substantially come to this —and it is not very complimentary, it is true, to the companies concerned— that the two companies have served the public so badly in the past that any change must be a change for the better. That, I think, is a short-sighted policy, and it is an argument which has not prevailed in similar cases of the proposed amalgamation of railway companies. It did not prevail in 1868, when there was a proposal made to amalgamate the London and Brighton and South Coast Company, and the South Eastern Company. Precisely the same arguments were used then, for it was said that the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company was in a bad financial condition, which is just the same thing that is said now with regard to the London, Chatham, and Dover Company. The result was that the two companies were not amalgamated, and I think most people will certainly say now that it was very well that they were not amalgamated. Similar arguments were used in 1872 when a proposal was made to amalgamate the London and North Western Railway Company with another company, but such arguments did not prevail in 1872 in Parliament, and I hope they will not prevail now. But there is an alternative to this amalgamation. If the London, Chatham, and Dover Company does not amalgamated with the South Eastern Company as is proposed by this Bill, something will certainly be done to improve the position of the London, Chatham, and Dover Company; and what I should like to see, and what would probably result if the House rejected this Bill, would be that we should find one of the great railway companies running north out of London would take over the London, Chatham and Dover line, and thus you would have the South of England linked up with a northern railway system, and this would develop traffic with the South of England to a degree which would not only maintain the new line, but would also improve the prospects of the South Eastern Railway itself. I think the House must recognise that this would probably be the result of rejecting this amalgamation. An active canvass has been made on behalf of this Bill, and I notice on the back of the Bill the name of a Cabinet Minister, the right honourable Member for St. Augustine's Division of Kent; and also another Minister, the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Dover. Now both these Ministers are directors of the South Eastern Railway Company. I think it is very inconvenient, not to use a stronger word, that the names of two Members of the Government should appear on the back of a Bill in regard to which one of their colleagues will be expected to advise the House. The President of the Board of Trade will presently have to advise the House on this Bill, and whether he will bless or ban the Bill I do not know, but certainly the right honourable Gentleman is placed in an invidious position in either event by the fact that the names of his two colleagues appear on the back of the Measure. This, I think, is an object lesson in the disadvantages of the present system of Minister directorships. Whatever this House may think, and it appears to think lightly of Ministers of the Crown occupying directorships of railway companies, there is a growing feeling outside this House that the position of a Minister of the Crown is incompatible with that of a director of a company; and whatever this present House may do or say, I feel sure that the next House will insist that Members of the Cabinet must choose between serving the public and serving shareholders.

MR. WOODS: (Essex, Walthamstow)

I rise for the purpose of joining my honourable Friend the Member for Bethnal Green in opposing the Second Reading of this Bill. I do so because there are three primary reasons upon which I base my opposition. The first is, because from the terms of the Bill, from the first word to the last, it may, with propriety and without exaggeration be called a Railway Dividend. Bill. In the second place, in substance this Bill asks the House to give its permission end protection to the railway company without giving any counterbalancing benefit to the community. In, and third place, after a careful examination of the provisions of the Bill, I cannot find either a sentence or a hint in any of its provisions that the people of this country are going to be any better off after the passing into law of this Measure-I think that for the last 50 years this House has set itself against the amalgation of railway companies, and it has done that, I presume, with the object of preventing the creation of unnecessary monopolies. In 1846 a Committee of the House fully considered that question of railway amalgamation. They recommended— In all instances in which railway companies propose to take powers of amalgamation, the rates and tolls of the amalgamated companies should be subject to revision. Now, I have carefully examined the provisions of this Bill, especially clause 10, which deals with the rates and charges proposed under this Measure, and there is not a sentence which indicates that there is to be any public or popular control over the charges that are to be made in connection with this railway company. But there are other reasons on which I base my objection to this Measure. First of all—and I believe honourable Members will agree with me in this—from a public point of view it is much easier to deal with a single or in-individual company than with a large corporation such as it is proposed to create under this Measure. In the second place, I think, if this Measure passes it will kill the very spirit of healthy competition which is so essential and so necessary to the common weal. Then, again, in the third place, we may take an example by looking at the railways running north of London, where there is healthy, free competition, and where there is no amalgamation, and I think that that fact in itself has proved a boon and an unmixed blessing to the trade and travelling public of this country both in regard to tariffs and railway passes. Then I find that schemes for the amalgamation of other railways on many occasions have been rejected by this House, although in those schemes of amalgamation the same advantages were offered and precisely the flame provisions inserted as in this case. In all those previous Measures the same promises and the same conditions which are now put in this Bill were given as the reason why those amalgamations should be passed into law. Then, Sir, I find another significant omission in this Bill, and that is that it proposes no reduction of tariffs. The tariffs have to remain the same, and I question whether any honourable Member can see one atom of good that will result from the passing of this Measure into law. There is a suggestion put forward by the promoters of this Bill that in their present condition neither of the companies can offer any reduction in rates, fares, tariffs, or charges. That, I think, is an ignoble suggestion, and it is not only ignoble, but it is contrary to the fact and to precedent. Then, I find that this railway company, along with other railway companies, have granted unto them large remissions of taxation, and yet they offer no cheap workmen's trains from many of the suburbs. I venture to say that there is scarcely another railway company which runs into this City that offers less facilities and less advantages to the travelling public than the two railways which it is now proposed should be amalgamated. Let me give to the House a few facts. There is Croydon, which the right honourable Gentleman opposite, who will, no doubt, reply to this Debate, has the distinguished honour of representing in this House. That town is 10 miles from London, and the return fare from Croydon, with a population of 102,000 is is. 6d. third class. Then there is Bromley, which is 10¼ miles from London, and the single fare is l1d. There is Addiscombe Road, which is the same distance from London as Croydon, and the return fare is 1s. 6d. In the case of Beckenham, which is 10 miles from London, and has a population of 20,000, the return fare is 1s. 3d. Then, I find that on these two companies there are no cheap workmen's at all from Bickley, Clockhouse, Kenthouse, Lower Sydenham, Catford, Ladywell, Lee, Hither Green, and Shortlands. There is not a single workmen's train, I am informed, from any of these important districts'. Then the fares in the Lewisham district are very excessive, and cost the working classes about 2s. 6d. per week. Now, I would ask this House whether that is a state of things which ought to act as an inducement for honourable Members to vote for the amalgamation of these two companies, when they have refused all applications made to them to bring about a system of cheap trains. Of course, we shall be told that they do run certain cheap trains. I believe on the South Eastern Railway the total number of workmen's trains is 13, while the total on the London, Chatham, and Dover line is 25. Then I am informed that the South Eastern Railway Company is the only company which runs into the City who refuse to give a statement of their workmen's fares to the Board of Trade. It is also stated, and I am informed, that the facilities and the conveniences afforded on these lines are the very worst of any company which runs into this City. Now, what is the object for which these powers are given to railway companies? The primary object of railways is not to make dividends, but to afford facilities and conveniences to the travelling and trading public of this country, but this Bill achieves neither of these objects. Therefore, I say that the House, considering all these questions, ought to reject the Bill, and I shall give my adherence to the attempt which is being made in this House to-day to defeat the Second Reading of this Bill, and I trust that honourable Members, until they get further concessions from the companies who propose to be amamalgated, will refuse to give a Second Reading to this important Measure. I have great pleasure in seconding the proposal of my honourable Friend.

MR. HARDY (Kent, Ashford)

I hope this House will hesitate before it accepts the arguments addressed to it with reference to this Bill. I understand that the first argument is that this is not a Kent question, but a question for the world; but I think that is taking the matter rather wide and far afield. I say that there is no doubt that the general public have a great interest in the Continental traffic, but that traffic is not concerned by the present Bill, for it is already safeguarded by statutory enactments, which I believe are in perpetuity, and which neither company can possibly vary; therefore, the Continental traffic is to be almost entirely taken out of this Bill If we exclude that matter, then we have to consider primarily the wants of the district, and if it is found that the county of Kent, into which these two railways run, is almost practically unanimous in favour of this working union then I think it would be a very strong Measure indeed for this House to reject the Bill on the Second Reading instead of sending it to the usual Committee upstairs. The last speaker suggested that it was a question in which there were three primary arguments against it, and one was that this was a "Railway Dividends Bill," and that was rather emphasised by the Mover of the Amendment, who called the attention of the House to the fact that certain Ministers were interested in one of the companies. Now, I am absolutely indifferent to that argument, for I hold no shares in either company. I have had the good fortune to know the facilities offered by these companies, and I fear that I should suffer rather than benefit by this amalgamation. But I have satisfied myself on this point—and I am glad to find that the constituency which I represent is also satisfied—that this working union will be for the benefit of the district. In referenec to this I would say that, notwithstanding the somewhat irresponsible opposition which has been started in a certain daily newspaper, I have only had two representations from my constituency in reference to this Bill —one of them from the largest urban district council in my constituency unanimously in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill, and the other from a small rural parish council opposing the Bill. I may add that the one which supports the working union represents a town which has had the benefit of competition from the two lines, while the rural council represents a district which has never known what competition has been in reference to this matter. I do not think that we are concerned to-day with the past history of these two railway companies. It might be summed up in this way—that they have done a great many things which they ought not to have done, and left undone a great many things which they ought to have done. It is necessary that we should clear out these Augean stables, and I think we have something approaching a modern Hercules in the honourable Member for Bethnal Green. At all events, I can assure the House that the districts concerned, whether they be the urban districts or the rural districts, feel that the only chance of the reforms which we have been pressing for a very long time is in this working union which has at last come before this House for its sanction. We are satisfied that there are many difficulties in the way of these reforms until we have obtained this working union. We believe that there is a genuine desire on the part of those responsible for this working union to grant these reforms; and they have given strong pledges, which I believe they are willing to renew in this House. Therefore, I would urge this House to accept the Second Reading of the Bill, and send it in the usual course to the Committee upstairs, for I believe it is a Measure which will be for the benefit of the constituency which I represent.


Like my honourable Friend who has just sat down. I speak as a resident in Kent, and I represent a Kentish constituency, and I may say that my constituents are very nearly unanimous in favour of this Bill. Like my honourable Friend, I am rather astonished at the character of the opposition, which seems to me to be largely factitious, and is made up by a certain newspaper which I need not mention, but the absurdity of which I could show from one little quotation. This newspaper wrote the other day that the people of Tunbridge Wells were dismayed at the prospect of less competition. Now, inasmuch as the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway never came to Tunbridge Wells, it is obvious that there cannot be less competition under this Bill than there was before. The main reason why I support this Bill is this—I do not in the least support monopolies as a rule, and if I thought this Bill was going to create a dangerous monopoly, I would oppose it. But, as a matter of fact, if there be a monopoly, it already exists. The two railways are working together now, and nothing can, as I understand it, stop them working together. They are working together now under statutory powers, and no competition exists in Kent at the present moment, and all this Bill seeks to do is to enable the two companies to borrow money to give additional facilities to the public, which, I agree with honourable Members opposite, are very much needed. This Bill does not create a monopoly, and I may say that, from what I know of the history of railways in Kent, there never was any effective competition existing there as exists in the North of England. All that we have had in Kent has been two weak railways, neither of them too rich or strong, who, by a system of rivalry, were cutting each others throats, not by granting additional facilities to the public, but by building competing lines, which nearly ruined their shareholders by their having to pay an interest on such an enormous capital. So you often had duplicate trains where they were not wanted, but if you wanted to get from one part of Kent to another it was often easier to-come up to London, change stations, and then come down again. The joint companies under this Bill intend to build certain junctions at Chislehurst and Whitstable, which, I do not hesitate to say, will be a very great advantage to the public. A certain amount of these advantages have already been secured by making use of the line between the two stations at Sevenoaks, and there is no necessity now to change-stations, which involved great delay and additional cost. If there is any monopoly, I say it already exists, and the non-passing of this Bill will not put an end to it, nor will it stop these two companies from working together, because I believe their present action is perfectly legal. They are working under powers granted by certain Acts of Parliament passed in 1893 and 1894, and you cannot make them go back on the powers which have been granted them. Therefore, I say you will not put an end to this monopoly by refusing to pass this Bill, but you will clearly prevent the two companies from raising capital and carrying out necessary improvements. Therefore, I see no reason why this House should take the very strong step of refusing to allow this Bill to go to a Committee upstairs, so that we may get certain clauses inserted which, I think, will be of very great advantage to the public. And I would further point this out—you talk a great deal about monopoly, and so on, but, after all, if the whole of Kent is under one company or one joint board, the whole district so served will not be nearly so large as the whole of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, which are at the present time well served by one company. Nor will it be so large as the district at present served alone by the North Eastern Company. What I do say is, that it would be very much better both for the travelling company, traders, and agriculturists in Kent to have one strong company to deal with instead of two weak companies, who in the past devoted all their money and all their energies to try and cut each others throats, without serving the public at the same time. I do not think this is an occasion to make a long speech, and all I wish to say is, that I do not associate myself in the least with the opposition to this Bill, which comes chiefly from London, and, as a Kent Member, I shall support the Second Reading of this Measure.

*MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

I can assure the honourable Member who has just sat down that such knowledge as I have of the question respecting the proposals of this Bill is not in any way due to the newspaper to which he has referred, or to any of the issues which have been raised in the sensational press. My acquaintance with the subject is due to representations made at Conferences called by the Mansion House Association, which deals with railway rates, and in connection with the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture. I do not deny in the least the force of the arguments of the honourable Members for Tunbridge and for Ash-ford, which should have their weight with the House in dealing with this question. It is perfectly obvious that some benefits may be obtained by the amalgamation of two weak railways, and those companies may, by being placed in a stronger financial position, be enabled to provide advantages of a very considerable character for the benefit of traders and agriculturists in Kent. But the honourable Member for Tunbridge said the position of these two railways place them in a sort of cut-throat competition which has forced them to raise their rates and charges. I would ask him whether he has carefully considered the provisions of this Bill, and whether he does not think that the Bill as it stands, instead of giving any guarantee to the agriculturists and traders that there will be an adequate reduction of the rates and charges, which the honourable Member argued had to be raised in consequence of the unhealthy competition between these two railways—is there any guarantee that those rates and charges will be reduced to reasonable limits by this Bill? I have here a statement of the promoters of this Bill, which says that some sort of guarantee has been given to the Board of Trade that there will be some such reduction of rates and charges to the traders and agriculturists if this Bill is allowed to proceed further. But I must say that, having read that paragraph, I do not think that it is any guarantee whatso- ever to this House to justify them at the present moment in passing the Second Reading of this Bill, and giving these enormous powers which the Measure does give by the amalgamation of the companies, which would really place the passengers and agriculturists and traders of the Southern counties at the mercy of some joint board of directors. Now, I venture to say that these companies do not come before the House with entirely clean hands in this matter. Of course, their case is that there has been a series of agreements sanctioned by Parliament which have foreshadowed and logically led up to this present proposed amalgamation. I admit that at once, for all the circumstances point in that direction; but how have they used the powers obtained under those agreements? In the Bill of 1894, a clause was slipped in of which the companies promptly availed themselves to raise their third-class fares, and, therefore, the House must recognise due caution in extending further powers to these companies. My honourable Friend the Member for Bethnal Green has referred to the fact that this Bill has not been dealt with in an open and straightforward way by these companies. They have practically gone on with the process of amalgamation without Parliamentary powers, and have thereby tried to force the hand of the Board of Trade and to force the hand of Parliament. The present Bills give them ample authority to exercise to the full the advantages of a monopoly, and at the same time give them an opportunity of giving no guarantees to the traders, passengers, and others who use their lines that they will be protected in these matters. It seems to me that there is no real obligation, and unless the honourable Member for Wimbledon, or some other representative of the company, can give us some definite guarantee as to the proposals which will be introduced into this Bill, I think my honourable Friend will be quite justified in dividing the House against it. The 10th clause in this Bill, viewed in connection with the 3rd clause of the Bill shows absolutely that the proposals of the Bill are not straightforward proposals of amalgamation. There will be a joint board of these two companies, and the result will be that it will be perfectly possible to raise the rates of the other company con- cerned where one is higher than the other. That is taking all the advantages of a mnopoly, and giving no advantages in return to the traders and others concerned in the operations of the companies. I read to-day the speech the Chairman of the South Eastern Railway Company, the Member for Wimbledon, delivered yesterday in reply to certain traders who then met him and the Board. His reply gave no guarantee whatever as to the change of rates or charges. His reply was to the effect that this Bill was amount of capital to be expended by these companies in order to carry out certain improvements and expansions of the railway systems; but there was not in the whole of that speech any indication whatsoever that this larger capital would be so utilised that it would go to reduce the rates and charges now being made against traders, agriculturists, and others who are using these railways. Now, it is perfectly well known that the whole of the rates of these companies were raised in 1893, and it is as equally well known that many of these increased rates have not subsequently been reduced. One of the conditions which ought to be laid down by this House is, that unless these increased rates are reduced to the old level, this Bill should not be allowed to go through. There is another question also in connection with the question of rates that ought to be brought to the attention of the House. The most creditable feature in the dealings of these companies has been the very high preferential rates which have been given to foreign agricultural products, as against our own agricultural products. For instance, in the case of apples and pears, the through rate which is charged to foreigners is 15s., at owner's risk. Now, when the over-sea rate has been deducted from that 15s. rate, it only leaves a rate of 1s. 8d. for the carriage of these goods into London. Now, the rate for English produce from Dover to London is not less than 12s. 6d., so that there is a very great discrepancy between the rates which are enforced for foreign and for English produce. The same remark applies to the case of onions; the rate from Dover for foreign produce, after deducting the over-sea charges, is 1s. 1d., and the rate for English produce is not less than 10s. 6d. There again is a very heavy difference in favour of the foreign producer. With regard to the maximum rate, it is claimed that there will be some sort of a reduction so far as the maximum rates are concerned in this Bill. I certainly do think that we are entitled to know what sort of reduction is contemplated. I have here a statement of the London, Chatham, and Dover and the South-Eastern Railways' maxima, and a statement of the maxima of the Northern Railway lines, and I find that the maxima of the London, Chatham, and Dover and the South Eastern Railways greatly exceed those of the North Western Railway and others. Now, I venture to say that when we have these three facts, that there are these increased rates which ought to be cut down, that we have also a very great proportion of preferential rates in favour of foreign produce, and that we have a higher standard of maxima of rates upon these two lines already than that which is prevalent on the North Western and Great Western and other lines of this country, I do not think that these companies are entitled to have any further powers conferred upon them before we have some guarantees that these abuses shall be removed before the amalgamating Act be granted. Now, I am opposed on general principles to the policy of amalgamation of railway companies. It gives an increase of power to those companies, and I think we may be creating a dangerous precedent if we assent to this amalgamation taking place. The only instance that we have of an amalgamation between two companies being granted is in the case of the Great Western and the Bristol and Exeter line—that was the only great amalgamation which has taken place; but in that case that was an amalgamation between two companies which practically divided the continuation of a trunk line. The proposed amalgamations of the Lon- don and North Western and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways in 1872, and of the South Eastern and Brighton Lines in 1868, which were similar to this, were both rejected by Parliament. I think that it is very unwise and very I think that it is very unwise and very impolitic that this amalgamation should be granted at all, and still more impolitic and unwise that it should be granted without the fullest guarantee being given as to the advantages that may be derived from such a scheme by the agriculturists, traders, passengers, and more especially the working-class passengers, who should be protected, and under those circumstances, unless those guarantees are forthcoming, I think my honourable Friend will be fully justified in dividing the House against the Motion that this Bill should be read a second time.

*SIR W. DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

I rise to trespass upon the attention of the House in order to bring it back to the real matter before us, and though I wish to deal lightly, and even carelessly, with the opposition that has been brought to bear against this Bill both within and without these walls, it does seem to me, as an old campaigner both within and without this House— —whether it is by accident or not, I do not stop to inquire—that the force of the opposition which has been promulgated both inside this House and elsewhere, having regard to the interests which are involved, is the most peculiar that I have ever known. But what we want to arrive at here is business, and therefore, I put on one side altogether the points that have been made by honourable Members opposite, from whom this opposition conies—with the except on of one silly blunder, which shows the ignorance of one honourable Gentleman with regard to this matter, when he said the companies had ignored Parliament by having entered into the Continental agreement, whereas the Act for the purpose was passed in 1876.


I did not say that. I think the right honourable Gentleman was referring to me, and, is he was, he has grossly misrepresented me. I never referred to the Continental agreement at all. I said that the two companies were now claiming to work all their traffic together, and 'that their only powers outside the Continental agreement were to deal with competitive traffic.


I wish to treat the honourable Gentleman with strict fairness, and I certainly thought he said that his chief objection was against Continental traffic. But, of course, I take his explanation. But however that may be, the issue before this House is one of supreme importance to the county of Kent, and also, of course, to those who are engaged in the Continental traffic, and to all foreigners who come to our shores. And I venture to urge this much: Out of a long experience of the unfortunate state of things we have endured as regards railway mismanagement in the county of Kent, that a blunder made by this House to-day wilt be absolutely irretrievable in our day and for generations to come. So far as I am concerned, I am absolutely free, beyond the vested interest which I, in common with other English people, have of the privilege of grumbling at railway mismanagement. I have no interest in either of these companies, but as a resident landowner and a representative of one of the constituencies in the county, I have a vital interest in the proposals now before the House, and in that interest I wish to make my views known, and give the House the very fullest information in my power. The question that has been raised in this House to-day out of doors is a question of competition on the one hand and possible monopoly on the other. Now, really, Sir, competition, in the strict sense and meaning of the word, has never been obtainable as regards railways in the county of Kent. In the earlier efforts of the South Eastern Railway to obtain a Continental route, they were compelled by Parliament to run for 10 miles over another railway, and that prevented them from preserving their independence with their own traffic, and running on true competitive lines. I can understand the competition of great trunk lines, but as I understand that competition, it is between two railways whose lines run through different districts, who compete for the public patronage by lowness of fares, punctuality of trains, and cheapness of goods traffic. That is competition, no doubt, and proper competition; but in that sense these two companies have never competed at all. From 1836 to 1839—from that time to this—Parliament has given statutory sanction to schemes in the county of Kent between these two lines of railway, which has made competition, so far as it is of any benefit to the public, absolutely impossible. Sir, for years past, ever since the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway was first connected, this con- stant intermingling of traffic has gone on, and for years past, not only has competition not been possible, but there has always been entanglement, owing to mutual responsibilities which have been imposed upon the companies by this system; and so long as this state of things exists in the county, competition will be absolutely impossible. But what about this cry of monopoly? Monopolies themselves are not good things, but in this case we have to consider the outcome of a position which is more disastrous than any which has occurred in any other part of the kingdom as regards rates and fares and the treatment of the traders and agriculturists and passengers of these lines. What really has happened is, that while there has been no competition between these lines there has been a race and rivalry for the Continental traffic which has proved most disastrous, not only to the companies and the shareholders, but to the passengers and the goods traffic of the line. As regards this race for the Continental traffic, I am sorry to say that some ancestors of mine are somewhat responsible for it. In 1846, the South Eastern Company of that day offered an ancestor of mine a bonus of £40,000 if he would allow them to go through his property. He refused to allow them to go through his property, with the result that the South Eastern Railway was driven miles away, through the Weald of Kent by the Tunbridge route. When the London, Chatham, and Dover railway came along years after and brought a line close to my own home, and obtained a more direct route to the Continent, then the South Eastern Railway again comes in and claims a direct route through Sevenoaks and Tunbridge. During that time money flowed in the struggle between these two Companies in the Committee-rooms of this House like water. Not only has this rivalry been maintained with most disastrous results, but ever since that time there has been rivalry and litigation going on to an enormous extent, and the result has been swollen capital in the case of the South Eastern, and so far as the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway is concerned, the result has been very low dividends and very high fares and charges. I really ask this House to forgive me for mentioning this little history as to the way in which this disastrous rivalry has been arrived at and its results. It has been arrived at entirely in that way. In what position do we find ourselves today? For some years past a common understanding or union has been arrived at, as I believe under Parliamentary sanction, and it is therefore legal. The question is whether Parliament is ready now to send this Bill upstairs to a Committee, and make this union effective or not? That is the whole point. That is the question we have to decide; but in all cases of difficulty there may be an alternative. What is the alternative? The alternative is to throw these companies back into the wretched state of entanglement in which they were placed before. We see, on the one hand, a strong company anxious to help a weaker company; willing to make this union. Are we, with our eyes open, going to prevent it; because to prevent it is to make it absolutely impossible for the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company to raise any further capital to carry out its effective working. If this Bill is passed it will result in the expenditure of a million of money for the improvement of the traffic arrangement of these lines in the first year. Are we going to throw away such a chance as that? The feeling which I have upon the matter is, that Parliament should assist us out of the difficulty in which we find ourselves; and that the only possible outcome is to support this Measure for the carrying out of these vast improvements which will not only benefit the Continental passengers, but will bring about a state of things which will enable these companies to reduce their rates on goods and agricultural products. I see much in the proposals before us, and before I sit down I think it is only right to say, that in dealing with this Bill as we are going to do, that the House, dealing as it is perhaps with a monopoly, would naturally ask what safeguards are to be provided on the question of fares, traffic, and rates. Those are very important matters, and I think before this Debate is closed, that my honourable Friend who is in charge of the Measure will show that, so far as the passengers and all rates are concerned, the promoters of this Bill will place themselves without the least reserve in the hands of the Board of Trade, and will say that no fares or rates shall be raised or dealt with without their sanction. I believe that if the House will give their assent to a union like this to help us out of our present entanglement, that under new control and new management the first outcome would be the breaking up of these old rivalries, and that working under a new system, the result would be a considerable relief to our agriculturists, to our fruit growers, and others, as regards the rates which they now pay. I thank the House for listening to me at this length, but of this I and assured, having given the utmost attention to this question, and knowing all these circumstances from my earliest years, though I have known Parliament, sometimes in ignorance, sometimes under pressure, do a hard thing to a private Bill, I would urge that this Parliament, at all events, cannot do a more cruel thing, not only to the passengers, but also to the through passengers to the Continent and the traders and agriculturists and others interested in the workings of these lines, than to refuse the passage of this Bill upstairs.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

The right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down has endeavoured to deny that there ever was any competition between these two companies in Kent. If I could take up the time of the House, I could show him that there was, but he went on and said that he thought that a monopoly was best.


I think I must dispute that altogether; the suggestion that I made was that the only way out of the present state of affairs was by an amalgamation of these two companies.


I am glad that the right honourable Gentleman has repudiated that suggestion; but he will not deny that the effect of this Bill, if it passes into law, will be to hand over the whole of the south-eastern comer of Britain to the operations of one company; that it will leave it in the control of a single company. That is a matter of very great importance, because it raises a question of policy. I shall only indicate this question of policy, and remind the House that there has not been for many years past any case in which such a proposal has been made to us and allowed. In 1872, the amalgamation of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company with the London and North-Western Railway was proposed, but was rejected. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company was a weak company, and could not give a proper and effective service, and the stronger company proposed to help them. Since then that company has become a strong company, and is able to compete with the London and North-Western Railway. In the same manner the proposed amalgamation between the North British Railway and another adjacent railway was also rejected. The case presented to our consideration today is of special importance, for this reason: in the case of these two lines, the South-Eastern Railway and the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, in the main, the traffic is passenger traffic; it is three-fourths passenger and one-fourth goods traffic; whereas, on the Great Northern lines, it is three-fourths goods and one-fourth passenger traffic. Now, the House will recognise that traders are far more able to combine among themselves, where it is a case in which their goods are concerned, and to organise themselves into a far more effective body than passengers, who are at the best scattered creatures. Therefore, a railway company whose profit is mainly derived from passenger traffic requires a very much greater amount of care at the hands of this House, and the passenger requires a great deal more protection than in the case of the trader, because they cannot protect themselves. Now, the two companies with which we are dealing, hold what is practically a monopoly of Continental traffic, but the honourable Gentlemen who have spoken upon this Debate have all spoken about Kent, as though they looked upon this matter as concerning Kent alone. But it concerns us all; it concerns London, which contributes a larger amount of traffic than Kent itself; it also concerns the Continental routes; and the fact that these two railways hold the two great Continental routes is in itself quite sufficient for this Measure to be considered by this House in a special manner. The Bill therefore comes before the House with a prima facie case against it, and no one will say that either company has so good a record that they ought to be indulged. The honourable Gentleman the Member for Ashford went further than I should go, when he likened these companies to the Augean stables. I will not recapitulate what has been said by my honourable Friend on this side of the House, but will come at once to the pith of the case made by the right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down. He said that competition, so far as we have had it, has not been a success; that Kent and Sussex have been very badly served, that rates are high and that passenger fares are very high; that the service is bad, and therefore there must be a strong case to meet them. His case is, that as competition has failed, and that it is impossible to meet it by a small expenditure of capital, that by a union of the companies a much better service, lower fares, and lower rates, would be obtained, and that the House may be fairly asked to take this step and to make a new departure and intervene to obtain by monopoly what competition has been unable to do. I think there is a great deal of force in that case, and I am inclined, therefore, despite the arguments that have been brought to bear against the Bill with great force, to think that this Bill should go before a Committee; but if it goes before a Committee certain conditions should be attached to it. The Committee should be an exceedingly strong Committee, and this Committee should have much freedom in its methods. It should not be restricted by the ordinary rules of procedure which govern the Railway Committee, but should be allowed to conduct its deliberations into this question as if it was, what it really is, a question of great public policy. I hope before the end of the Debate we shall receive some assurance from the Board of Trade and those responsible for the Bill that no objection will be raised to two proposals, namely, that the Committee shall be one of exceptional strength, and shall have a perfectly free hand in inquiring into all the questions which they may deem necessary to investigate for the purpose of solving this difficulty. I would further suggest that the Committee should have power to impose very stringent conditions as to the price of this Act of Parliament—to require the reduction of rates and fares, and the giving of additional facilities to the travelling public, especially in connection with workmen's trains. The Committee should also have power to consider whether some proviso should not be added dealing with a future revision of rates and charges, and enabling, if the scheme be not successful, some other company to come into the district. Those who are inclined to oppose the Second Reading will not part with all their powers over the Bill by sending it to a Committee. If their demands are not satisfied, questions can still be raised on the Third Reading, and, if necessary, the Bill can be rejected. I hope and trust, however, that that step will not be necessary; but it will depend upon the view which the Committee takes, and the freedom which it is allowed.


Sir, the right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down has arrived at a conclusion to which I was the first to ask the House to come, namely, that the Bill be read a second time, and then referred to a Committee. No doubt, an amalgamation of the kind proposed is one of large public interest, and no one can be surprised that Parliament has been asked to consider the important principle involved in the Measure. The service of the two companies concerned has been such as has not hitherto proved very satisfactory to the travelling public. But that is not an argument, in my opinion, against the Second Reading, but is one altogether in favour of it. The alternatives before the House are two. The one is whether or not, by rejecting the Bill, you are to allow the present unsatisfactory state of things to continue without taking some steps to remedy it; and the other is, whether you will give assent to the continuance of a private arrangement between the two companies, instead of an amalgamation on terms which may be examined by a Committee of the House that can insist, if it chooses, as a condition of amalgamation, that certain privileges shall be given. To reject this proposal for amalgamation on some shadowy idea that, in the remote future, some northern company might purchase the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway would be a course not in accord with the public interest. I must here repudiate, on my own behalf and on that of my right honourable Friend, the statement of the honourable Member opposite (Mr. Pickersgill) to the effect that the name of the Member for East Kent (Mr. Akers Douglas) appearing on the back of the Bill has in the smallest degree, either intentionally by him or with regard to mvself, had any influence on any proceeding—


I never suggested anything of the kind.


The honourable Gentleman did not say so, but he suggested it. Why did he mention the fact at all, then, if it was not to convey some reflection on my right honourable Friend? Such reflections are much worse than actual statements. My right honourable Friend has never mentioned the subject —neither of the two right honourable Gentlemen whose names appear on the back of the Bill, nor any colleague interested in railways has made any representations to me either for or against any proposals connected with railways which have been under my consideration since I have been President of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade have, as the House knows, had some communications in the public interest with the railway companies in regard to some proposals in the Bill, and the railway companies concerned have shown the greatest inclination to meet the views which the Board of Trade have placed before them, and to make such alterations in their Bill as will, in our opinion, protect the public interest. The Board of Trade have insisted on the reduction of the maximum charges in the Bill; in this instance those charges may be reduced, and do not suppose the public will express any keen regret if that course be adopted. But that is not any reason why the Bill should not go before a Committee. There is one fear to which the public are justified in giving expression. Where at present there are competitive rates, in the amalgamation care shall be taken that there is no power, on their own initiative, to increase those competitive rates; and we have secured a clause in the Bill providing that at all competitive points there shall be no increase of passenger charges without the consent of the Railway Commission—a provision which adequately protects the public—and so with regard to goods. The Board of Trade will have to make a Report to Parliament on the Bill, and I hope when that Report is made we may have more concessions to record; but we shall, in any case, take care to consider any points where we think the public may be more efficiently protected than under the Bill. If passed, I believe the Bill will have the effect which my right honourable Friend the Member for Kent desires—it will place in the hands of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company a sum of money which they could not by any other means obtain for the purpose of improving their rolling stock, and for giving facilities to the public which they have long been demanding in vain. I believe the Bill will give great facilities to the public not at present existing for travelling between one system and the other. I look to the Committee to take such securities as shall prevent the amalgamation from being prejudicial to the public interest. I agree that the Bill should go before a Hybrid Committee. An ordinary Committee would, no doubt, deal satisfactorily with the question, but, having regard to the general interests expressed with reference to that question, it would be wise for the House, when the proper time comes, to refer the Bill to a strong Hybrid Committee. As to reducing fares and rates, insisting on workmen's trains, and other matters of that kind, my conviction is that without any instruction from the House the Committee would have full power to consider all such proposals. I am bound to say, with regard to workmen's trains, these companies have been more liberal than any other company running to London. In this connection, I think I am right in pointing out that these companies propose to give workmen tickets by every train up to eight o'clock in the morning. Sir, I hope the honourable Gentleman will not divide the House on this occasion, for I am certain that the general sense of the House is in favour of the Second Reading, all of us hoping that the Bill may emerge from the Committee in a condition which will be acceptable to all concerned.

*MR. BURNS (Battersea)

Mr. Speaker, some criticisms were made by a number of Members on the other side as to the character and the legality of the opposition against the Second Reading of this Bill. Well, Sir, the right honourable Baronet the Member for Kent cannot direct such criticism against myself. I have the misfortune to ride in the railway carriages of one of the companies mentioned in this Bill, and I represent a district that has the greater misfortune of having one of these railways running through it. Consequently, my locus standi in this Debate is certainly as good as that of the provincial Gentlemen who represent Kent, and who look upon London simply as a means of providing the working expenses of a railway. Now, Sir, I want to say that I am extremely dissatisfied with the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. He has talked about public safeguards, and certain changes in the Bill, and indicated that the Chatham and Dover and South Eastern Railway Companies will give the 3d., 2d., and 1d. scale. Well, upon that I say, "Thank you for nothing," because nearly every other railway gives that, and considerably more already, and, consequently, the concession is hardly worth taking. I believe, Sir, that the President of the Board of Trade might have gone further and said that this company had no power to increase competitive rates, and neither would the Board of Trade allow it. What about the reduction of existing competitive rates? What about rates and fares that ought to be gradually reduced to follow the prospective reductions that other companies are sure to make, and which many companies carry out at the present moment? I believe that much good has been done to Kent and London by the Motion to reject this Bill, because without this discussion we should not have heard the highly interesting reminiscences of the right honourable Baronet the Member for Dart-ford, who told us that 40 or 80 years ago, or at some archaic date, an ancestor of his made a blunder in opposing the Chatham and Dover Bill. Well, Sir, what guarantee have we that his grandson 50 years hence in the House of Commons will not say a similar thing about the honourable Baronet supporting this Motion in his present unconditional manner? I have no desire, however, to go into the ancient history of the right honourable Baronet's family and the prospective decision of his grandson. I prefer to take the businesslike attitude of a London Member, and say that so far the President of the Board of Trade has neither pledged, promised, or guaranteed conditions that will satisfy the great railway traffic of London. And what is more, Sir, I have only got to go to Kent to prove my argument. The honourable Member who first spoke in support of the Bill was under the impression that London Members were trespassing upon this Tom Tiddler's ground that they represent, but he ought to know that of the 75 per cent. of the traffic of these two railways (i.e., passenger traffic) over 60 per cent is practically dependent upon London, and 50 per cent. of that 60 per cent. is London traffic pure and simple. You cannot, therefore, talk of the Chatham and Dover or South Eastern Railway Companies and leave London out of consideration. The honourable Member also said Continental traffic had been safeguarded. Yes, on present charges that may be so; but what we want is to regulate the Continental rates that produce-growers in the beautiful county of Kent will not have to pay from 5s. to 10s. 6d. for onions, carrots, and turnips, as against 1s. 3d. or 1s. 6d. charged on these articles from Belgium and Germany. But that concession cannot be granted so long as we have Conservative Members theoretically looking after agriculture but taking the side of a railway company that has not considered the interests of Kent to anything like the extent it should have done. Then we are twitted with being irresponsible. Well, Sir, I am prepared to admit that my interest in this Bill is not dividends, and my concern in it is not directors' fees, and in that sense we are both irresponsible and independent. Honourable Members from Kent have talked about this being a local matter, and said that London Members should not intervene. But I venture to say that we suffer considerably by the blundering of these two companies, and our past experience of them is no guarantee that we shall not be similarly treated in the future unless the President of the Board of Trade and the Committee go further in the direction of keeping these companies under popular and effective control. An honourable Member has also said that practically there has been no effective competition, and that effective competition had never existed in Kent. Sir, where is the pledge of the honourable Member for Wimbledon? where is the pledge of the President of the Board of Trade?—that these two theoretical rival companies, who, in their desire to get Continental traffic, have ignored London and shamefully treated agriculturists in Kent, will do in the future any better than they have done in the past? Not one word in this Debate to lead us to form that view. Then we are told that concessions are being made. Well, what is the kind of concession? I have heard of one. The London, Chatham, and Dover Company have knocked off the 9.5 p.m. train from Victoria to Dover, and also the 3.45 a.m. Dover to Victoria, and, as a "concession," they substitute for these two trains, one starting at 10.30 from Victoria, going through Tunbridge Wells, and thence on the other line to Hastings and Seven-oaks, where no one wants to go or could go by the previous train. Well, if that is the kind of concession they are going to give, the fewer we have of them the better. I have received from season ticket holders representations to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. I intend to do so simply because there has been no promise, pledge, or guarantee worthy the name from any supporter of the Bill. Now, Sir, I know from season ticket holders that the accommodation is bad, the time tables worse, and punctuality very indifferent. But there is one section of this traffic which I am much interested in, namely, workmen's train accommodation. The President of the Board of Trade has never ridden from Victoria to Ludgate Hill by the 4.30 or 5.30 on the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway. If he had he would have been reminded of what the Via Dolorosa is. But I will give the President of the Board of Trade an illustration: 12 to 16 workmen in a compartment to hold 10 on a foggy morning in November, with half of them smoking, and overcrowded to the most scandalous extent. Minor accidents frequently happen, although the Chatham and Dover, we are told, is an exceedingly good line. Well, as one who has 'travelled on this system, I cannot appreciate the eulogy pronounced by the President of the Board of Trade. It is not true. I do not believe it myself, and I believe the rest of London agree with me upon that point. With regard to the South Eastern, the company only run 13 workmen's trains, and this is the way in which some of the workmen employed by the Government at Woolwich Arsenal are treated—in consequence of having only short spells of work many of them are unable to leave London to permanently live at Woolwich, and very frequently these men have to pay 6s. or 7s. a week to go from Charing Cross to Woolwich and back out of 35s. and 38s. a week, the fares on the South Eastern being 1s. 2d. from Woolwich to Charing Cross, and 1s. 1d. from Woolwich to Spa Road. Well, Sir, I do believe that London will never be able to solve the housing problem, to destroy one-room tenements, and to mitigate the frightful poverty which exists in this large city, until Parliament compels the suburban and metropolitan railways to help the local authorities in London by a big system of cheap and frequent workmen's trains. The contribution towards the housing problem by the South Eastern Railway is practically nil. The contribution of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company is not worth anything. Their general treatment of the second-class and first-class passenger is equally shabby and disreputable, and it is to the credit of the workmen that the prevalent overcrowding has not been carried further. But with regard to rates on produce, with regard to workmen's fares, either in number or price, not a word from a responsible person in this Debate. As representing one of the South London constituencies which is served by both of these two railways, I trust that the House will not be influenced by the proposed safeguards of the President of the Board of Trade. I want to see them before we vote for the Second Reading. I sincerely trust that Members on this side will not be too much influenced by the suggestion that the appointment of a Committee is the right way to dispose of this Bill. I believe that the best thing that could happen both to the Chatham and Dover and South Eastern Railway Companies is for this Second Reading to be rejected by an overwhelming majority. If that were done it would teach the directors, and especially the embryonic Hercules who is going to clear out this Augean stable, that to carry out this tremendous task they must have a stronger, sounder public opinion behind them than at present exists. If this House rejects the Second Reading of this Bill the directors of both companies would come together, and they would submit to the London public and to the Kent district a scheme of fares, rates, and tariffs, with suggestions for improvements that would be popular beyond doubt, and then they would get a Second Reading with practically no opposition at all. The only way in which you can convert the South Eastern is to apply the toe of the boot. The only way in which the Chatham and Dover Company can be influenced is for the House of Commons to say, "Too long they mismanaged the public duty that Parliament entrusted them with fears and years ago." I believe that the best thing in the interests of these two companies—I ought really, Sir, to receive a substantial solatium for making these excellent suggestions—is for the House of Commons to put its foot down and say—"We have stood your blundering and plundering too long; you must know what you are going to do, and must be certain of it, the public must be satisfied as to your capacity to discharge your obligations, and Parliament will then devise means by which it can be done. It is about time that is done. I trust the House of Commons will defeat this Bill, and turn it out, as it deserves, by a large majority.

MR. COSMO BONSOR (Surrey, Wimbledon)

Perhaps the honourable Gentleman who has just spoken is right in saying that the blundering policy of the South Eastern Railway in the past has reached its climax. I thought for a moment that he was going to suggest that he should be the general manager of the company in future, because he seemed to be absolutely conversant with all the facts of the case. He seemed to know the rates for agricultural produce, the fares of passengers, and the allowances made to foreigners. I felt he had studied the subject so thoroughly that he was prepared to suggest that possibly he might be general manager, or, perhaps, that the London County Council should take over the railways. Well, Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to enter into the details of this Debate, because I am perfectly well aware that anyone who is considered to have been, or is about to be, connected with the policy of a Private Bill is not supposed to use his influence or his vote for or against that Bill. But I do not think the House should divide on this occasion on anything like false representations. My right honourable Friend the Member for Aberdeen laid out a policy for the guidance of the proposed Committee, which I for one, speaking in behalf of the shareholders of the South Eastern Company, cannot for one moment accept. I wish this House to thoroughly understand that I cannot agree to the reference which the right honourable Gentleman wished to make to the Committee to which the Bill will be sent. I would rather lose the Bill. There is nothing in the present Bill which is exceptional. But there is this to be said, that no Private Bill has come before the House of Commons upon which greater publicity has been thrown. Everyone interested in the matter knows that for quite nine months the policy of the two companies was to be proposed in Parliament, and that policy has been before the country and before the passengers and customers of these companies, and with all that publicity there have been only seven petitions presented against the Bill. Two out of those seven petitions were presented by great railway companies, who naturally did not oppose the principle of the Measure, but merely opposed is on the ground that they have already agreements with one of the two companies, and they wish these agreements to be protected in the Bill. One petition was from the commercial travellers of Great Britain. Another petition was from the town and corporation of Canterbury, possibly the only representative authority, the only local authority, or county council or district council in the district which we serve which has petitioned against the Bill. And since I came into the House I have been informed that that petition has been withdrawn. Beyond that petition there is absolutely nothing left except the petition of the London County Council. The promoters of the Bill were advised that they might have objected to the appearance of the London County Council before the Committee of this House on the ground that the London County Council had no locus standi. But I think we were well advised in saying that the policy we proposed was a big policy, and that we should shut out no one from the discussion of the provisions we were going to place in our Act. We, therefore, welcomed the London County Council as the protective genius of the various bodies and authorities who wished to protest against the Bill, or who wished to get advantage from it. I do not know whether the right honourable Gentleman intends to move for the Committee which he has selected, but in the interests of share-holders, if he does, I shall oppose it. I feel as confident as possible that this, Bill is really in the interests of the public first, and in the interests of the shareholders afterwards; and I am perfectly confident that the clauses which have been agreed to with the Board of Trade will be an absolute protection against any undue use of the monopoly we possess. We bind ourselves absolutely not to increase any rate, fare, or charge which is at present in existence. And we go one step further, and say that it is our absolute intention to go through the whole of the tariff of charges, fares, and the rates, and to remove anomalies, and do our best to make the interests of the company and the interests of our customers identical as they ought to be.

MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

As representative of a constituency which is more closely interested in this question than that of any other Member of the House, I would like to say a few words. I did not gather from my honourable Friend behind me whether he accepted the suggestion made by the President of the Board of Trade. I understand my Friend accepts the modification of the proposal of the right honourable Gentleman opposite.




I would like to say this, that my constituents, until a few days ago, afforded me no indication whatever of what their opinions were. But during the last 10 days I lave had a great many representations on this subject. Those representations differed very widely one from the other; but among those who favoured me with representations I did not find that enthusiasm in favour of the Bill which my Friend indicated. On the other hand, I did not find any important section of them who were prepared to suggest that the Bill should be rejected. What I found was suggested was that all local interests should have a fair opportunity of being heard before the Committee— not a rambling inquiry on the part of persons who had no business whatever in the locality—but that all local interests should be fairly heard. There was one opinion which I found largely prevailed: that was that if there had been any hope or chance of getting one of the Northern lines to acquire one of these companies in order to come into Kent that would have been welcomed with open arms. But when it was found that that was impossible the present Bill was acquiesced in by them as a disagreeable alternative. I feel bound to say this, as I told my constituents yesterday, because the whole of England for railway purposes is already parcelled out very much in the same way as China is just now by the European Powers. It has been divided into spheres of interest and influence. But unlike the European Powers in China, the railway companies agree not to encroach upon each other's provinces. This is done by a boná fide agreement which makes it impossible for any of the Northern lines to invade Kent. My honourable Friend near me says it is not so; but all I can say is that hitherto none of the Northern lines have come forward to fill the void. I, for one, cannot take upon myself the responsibility of opposing the Second Reading of the Bill. I fully accept the promises of my honourable Friend behind me. I feel sure that which he has promised to carry out he will see carried out. Under these circumstances I trust the House will accept the reference of the Bill to a Hybrid Committee, so that all interested in it may be heard.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

Do I understand that the suggestion that has been thrown out by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen has been accepted by the President of the Board of Trade?


I propose a reference to a Hybrid Committee.


I do not understand the position taken up by the honourable Member for Wimbledon. He says that he agrees with the President of the Board of Trade, but does not accept the position taken up by the right honour-able Member for Aberdeen.


I willingly accept a Hybrid Committee, and the stronger it is made the better I will be pleased. But I accept it with the limitations imposed on it by the President of the Board of Trade.


There is no great difference, to my mind. The President of the Board of Trade has made it clear why he recommends that Committee. The object I have in rising is not to discuss the provisions of the Bill. As far as I can understand, all have admitted that we have had a wretched state of affairs on these two lines, and that something must be done to mend it. My honourable Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill has not been able to put into very practical shape before the House the reforms he wishes introduced. The honourable Member for Battersea has said that the best thing that could happen to the Bill would be its rejection by a great majority, and that then the companies should state the concessions they are prepared to make, and make these the basis of a Bill which would be passed next year unanimously. That sounds very well, but it is not practical. I do not think that next Session the House would be willing to pass a Bill which it has unanimously rejected this year. I have a little information which I wish to give to the House The action of the honourable Member for Battersea, like the action of the London County Council as far as London is concerned, was almost confined to the question of workmen's trains. I happened last year to have something to do with these two lines, as well as with other lines with which I have relations: and I am bound to state that these companies, from whatever motive, have adopted the very suggestions which the honourable Gentleman has thrown out in regard to workmen's trains.




They have taken the means of making public larger facilities for workmen's trains than have ever been given by any other lines coming into London.



They made it public five weeks ago, but I knew it over three months ago, when I had occasion to approach the two companies as president of a society with which I am connected. And I hold in my hand the advertisements announcing these new arrangements in regard to workmen's trains. The question is whether these new arrangements are of a satisfactory nature. I do not wish to enter into details; I will only say that we were told by the honourable Member for Walthamstow that the Chatham and Dover Company ran only 13 workmen's trains, and the South-Eastern only 25. It was pointed out to the society with which I am connected that the reason why more workmen's trains were not given was because of the physical difficulty of getting in and out of the termini of the lines. But the company said that, to meet this difficulty, they would allow workmen to travel by any train on their system and give tickets at greatly reduced fares, even after eight o'clock in the morning. These companies have done more, I think, to carry into effect the provisions of the Cheap Trains Act than any other company coming into London. I do not say that this is all that ought to be given. My honourable Friend has mentioned—and thought he had a good right to do so in the interest of those he represents—certain stations, eight or nine in number, where the workmen's trains did not stop. But the companies have been approached, and I think it is not impossible that the Board of Trade will get some reasonable arrangement made for these stations. But the new concession I have mentioned is not the only one to which public attention has been drawn. There have been concessions in regard to Continental traffic and other matters. In fact, the very course recommended by the honourable Member for Battersea has been, to a large extent, adopted. I believe the President of the Board of Trade has been in communication with the companies, and that many further concessions have been promised. The question is, what we have got to do at the present moment. We have received very good advice from the right honourable Member for Aberdeen, and no one can say that that right honourable Gentleman's criticism, both of the companies and of the Bill, was not sufficiently severe. He was not, however, opposed to the Second Reading of the Bill, but demanded that it be remitted to a strong Committee, and that that

Committee should get every concession it possibly could from the companies, before the Bill was passed. I have not detected any note of hostility in this House to the principle of the Bill, and I think that, after all, the best course which we could adopt is to pass the Second Reading of the Bill, and refer it to a strong Hybrid Committee.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 288;: Noes 82.—(Division List No. 41.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F. Coghill, Douglas Harry Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)
Aird, John Cohen, Benjamin Louis Fry, Lewis
Allen, W. (Newe order Lyme) Collings, Rt Hon Jesse Galloway, William Johnson
Allison, Robert Andrew Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready Gedge, Sydney
Ambrose, William (Middlesex) Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Gibbons, J. Lloyd
Anstruther, H. T. Compton, Lord Alwyne Gibbs, HnA.G.H.(City of Lon.).
Arrol, Sir William Cooke, C.W.Radcliffe (Heref'd) Gilliat, John Saunders
Ascroft, Robert Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Gladstone.Rt. Hn. Herbert J.
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Ed. T. D. Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick
Asquith. Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Courtney, Rt. Hn. Leonard H. Gold, Charles
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Cranborne, Viscount Goldsworthy, Major-General
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Cripps, Charles Alfred Gordon, Hon. John Edward
Baillie, James E. B. (Inverness) Crombie, John William Goschen, George J. (Sussex)
Baird, John George Alexander Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton) Goulding, Edward Alfred
Baldwin, Alfred Cruddas, William Donaldson Gray, Ernest (West Ham)
Balfour, Rt. Hn, A J.(Manc'r) Cubitt, Hon. Henry Green.WalfordD. (Wednesbury)
Banbury, Frederick George Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) Greville, Hon. Ronald
Bartley, George C. T. Currie, Sir Donald Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)
Beach,Rt.Hn.Sir M.H.(Bristol) Curzon, Viscount Gunter, Colonel
Beach, W.W.Bramston (Hants) Dalkeith, Earl of Haldane, Richard Burdon
Beckett, Ernest William Davenport, W. Bromley- Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.
Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull Denny, Colonel Hardy, Laurence
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Hare, Thomas Leigh
Bethell, Commander Dorington, Sir John Edward Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.
Bhownaggree, Sir M M. Doughty, George Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-
Biddulph, Michael Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Healy, Maurice (Cork)
Blundell, Colonel Henry Doxford, William Theodore Healy, Thomas J. (Wexford)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Drucker, A. Healy, Timothy M (N. Louth)
Boulnois, Edmund Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Heath, James
Bowles,T.Gibson(King's Lynn) Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart Heaton, John Henniker
Brassey, Albert Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Helder, Augustus
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trottes
Brown, Alexander H. Ellis, John Edward (Notts.) Hickman, Sir Afred
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Evans, SirFrancis H. (S'thmptn. Hill, Sir Edwd. Stock (Bristol)
Burdett-Coutts, W. Fardell, Sir T. George Hoare, Edw. Brodie (Hampst'd
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Farquharson, Dr. Robert Hobhouse, Henry
Carlile, William Walter Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J.(Manc'r) Holden, Sir Angus
Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward Ffrench, Peter Hornby, Sir William Henry
Causton, Richard Knight Finch, George H. Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn
Cawley, Frederick Firbank, Joseph Thomas Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.
Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East) Fisher, William Hayes Jackson, Rt. Hn. Wm. Lawies
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Fison, Frederick William Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick
Chaloner, Capt, R. G. W. Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Jenkins, Sir John Jones
Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.J. (Birm.) Flower, Ernest Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wor.) Folkestone, Viscount Johnston. William (Belfast)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H A. E. Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Jolliffe, Hon. H. George
Coddington, Sir William Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk) Kay-Shuttleworth. RtHnSirU.
Kearley, Hudson E. Morton, Arth. H. A. (Deptford) Spencer, Ernest
Kennaway, Rt.Hn. Sir John H Moulton, John Fletcher Stanley, Hn.Arthur(Ormskirk)
Kenyon, James Mount, William George Stanley,Edward Jas. (Somerset)
Kenyon-Slaney, Colonel Wm. Murray,RtHn.A.Graham(Bute Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)
Kilbride, Denis Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Kimber, Henry Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Stephens, Henry Charles
King, Sir Henry Seymour Myers, William Henry Stewart, SirMark J.M'Taggart
Kitson, Sir James Newdigate, Francis Alexander Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Knowles, Lees Nicholson, William Graham Stock, James Henry
Labouchere, Henry Nicol, Donald Ninian Stone, Sir Benjamin
Lafone, Alfred O' Malley, William Strutt, Hn. Charles Hedley
Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool) Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Sturt, Hn. Humphry Napier
Lecky, Rt. Hn. William Ed. H. Palmer, Sir Chas. M. (Durham) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Palmer, George Wm. (Reading) Talbot,RtHn J.G. (Oxf'dUniv.)
Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset) Paulton, James Mellor Tennant, Harold John
Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Pearson, Sir Weetman D. Thomas, Alfred(Glamorgan,E.)
Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham) Percy, Earl Thorburn, Walter
Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller Phillpotts, Captain Arthur Thornton, Percy M.
Lough, Thomas Platt-Higgins, Frederick Tollemache, Henry James
Lowles, John Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Tritton, Charles Ernest
Lowther, Rt. Hn. James (Kent) Pretyman, Ernest George Usborne, Thomas
Loyd, Archie Kirkman Priestley, Briggs (Yorks.) Valentia, Viscount
Lucas-Shadwell, William Purvis, Robert Vincent, Col. Sir C.E. Howard
Macartney, W. G. Ellison Rentoul, James Alexander Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. H.
Macdona, John Cumming Richards, Henry Charles Walton, Jno. Lawson (Leeds.S.;
MacIver, David (Liverpool) Richardson, SirThos. (Hartlep'l) Wanklyn, James Leslie
Maclean, James Mackenzie Rickett, J. Compton Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)
Maclure, Sir John William Ritchie, Rt. Hn.Chas.Thomson Warr, Augustus Frederick
M 'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Robinson, Brooke Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)
M 'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Roche, Hn. Jas. (East Kerry) Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)
M'Ewan, William Rothschild,Hn. Lionel Walter Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edin., W.) Royds, Clement Molyneux Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-
M'Killop, James Russell,Gen.F.S.(Cheltenham) Whiteley, George (Stockport)
M'Laren, Charles Benjamin Russell, T.W. (Tyrone) Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Maple, Sir John Blundell Ryder, John Herbert Dudley Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Mappin, Sir Fredk. Thorpe Samuel, Harry S.(Limehouse) Williams, Joseph Powell (Birm)
Marks, Henry Hananel Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert Willox, Sir John Archibald
Massey-Mainwaring.Hn.W.F. Savory, Sir Joseph Wills, Sir William Henry
Maxwell,Rt.Hn.Sir Herbert E. Schwann, Charles E. Wilson-Todd, Wm. H.(Yorks.)
Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand Seton-Karr, Henry Wodehouse.Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)
Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Sharpe, William Edward T. Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B Stuart-
Milbank,SirPowlettChas.Jno. Sidebotham, J.W.(Cheshire) Wylie, Alexander
Middlemore, John T. Simeon, Sir Barrington Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Monk, Charles James Sinclair, Capt. Jno. (Forfarshire) Wyville, Marmaduke D'Arcy
Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Sinclair, Louis (Romford) Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
More,Robt.Jasper(Shropshire) Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Morley, Charles (Breconshire) Smith, Abel H.(Christchurch) TELLERS FOR THE AYES-
Morrell, George Herbert Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.) Mr. Henry Forster and Mr.
Morris, Samuel Smith, Hn. W. F. D.(Strand) Cornwallis.
Allan, William (Gateshead) Duckworth, James Macaleese, Daniel
Ambrose, Robt. (Mayo, W.) Ellis,Thos. Edw. (Merionethsh.) MacNeill, Jno. Gordon Swift
Arnold, Alfred Fenwick, Charles Maddison, Fred.
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Maden, John Henry
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Field, William (Dublin) Molloy, Bernard Charles
Baker, Sir John Goddard, Daniel Ford Moore, Arthur (Londonderry)
Barlow, John Emmott Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Billson, Alfred Gull, Sir Cameron O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Harwood, George O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Burns, John Hazell, Walter O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Burt, Thomas Hedderwick, Thos. Chas. H. O'Keeffe, Francis Arthur
Buxton, Sydney Charles Hogan, James Francis O'Kelly, James
Caldwell, James Hughes, Colonel Edwin Pease.Herb.Pike (Darlington)
Cameron, Sir Chas. (Glasgow) Jacoby, James Alfred Philipps, John Wynford
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex Pirie, Duncan V.
Channing, Francis Allston Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Power, Patrick Joseph
Clough, Walter Owen Kinloch, Sir Jno.Geo.Smyth Provand, Andrew Dryburgh
Colville, John Lawson.Sir Wilfrid(Cumb'lnd) Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.) Leng, Sir John Redmond, Jno. E. (Waterford)
Davies, M.Vaughan(Cardigan) Lewis, John Herbert Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Dilke, Rt. Hn. Sir Charles Lloyd-George, David Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Smith, Samuel (Flint) Wallace, Robert (Perth) Wilson, Jos. H. (Mid' brough.)
Souttar, Robinson Walton, Joseph (Barnsley) Woodhouse, Sir J.T.(Hud'fd.)
Spicer, Albert Warner, Thos. Courtenay T. Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Steadman, William Charles Wedderburn, Sir William
Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath) Weir, James Galloway
Tanner, Charles Kearns Williams, Jno. Carvell(Notts.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Thomas, David Alf. (Merthyr) Wilson, Henry J.(York,W.R.) Mr. Pickersgill and Mr.
Trevelyan, Charles Philips Wilson, John (Govan) Woods.

Resolutions agreed to.


Mr. Speaker, I understand that, as a matter of order, any part of the Motion which I have here that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee which is opposed cannot be taken to-day, but I hope that will not preclude me from moving, at any rate, the first part, and I suppose I may move that now, though the latter part is opposed by the Amendment in the name of the right honourable Gentleman opposite.

Question put— That the Bill be committed to a. Committee of nine Members, five to be nominated by the House, and four by the Committee of Selection."—(Mr. Bryce.)