HC Deb 19 March 1903 vol 119 cc1304-7
MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

moved "That this Bill be read a second time this day six months." He said this was certainly a Bill which ought to be referred to the Royal Com- mission which had been appointed to inquire into the question of London traffic and locomotion. This was a Bill which was not brought in in the public interest, but or purposes of private profit, and sought for certain powers, among others, to widen certain streets on the route it served. At the present time, the middle of the streets served by this Company, were practically rendered not only unsafe, but positively dangerous and almost unpassable, without regard to the safety of either the pedestrians or the traffic which used them, and they did not provide stations for their passengers. Therefore, quite apart from this Bill being one of those which ought to go to the consideration of the Royal Commission, he urged that this Company should not be given any further powers until they had taken means to relieve the congestion at their termini, and this could only be done by their acquiring land on which they could erect stations at which to take up and get down their passengers. Another and equally good reason why the Second Reading of this Bill should not receive the assent of the House, was that this Company had not yet, under their Act of last year, proceeded with their Hammersmith and Richmond scheme. It was a curious fact that the public Press had no record of the many accidents which occurred on the tramway service of this Company. It was a matter of common report that accidents occurred daily, but such was the astuteness of the officials of the Company that they always managed somehow to suppress the facts and prevent them being published.

Anyone who desired a unified system for all London, and had watched the career of this Company, would notice that the cleverness of the promoters of this Bill had been shown by the fact that they had recognised that they had to deal with a large number of small local authorities in and around London whose officers were no match for the skill and cunning of the gentlemen who represented the Company. If one other argument were necessary to ensure this Bill being sent to the Railway Commission, it was to be found in the fact that throughout this and similar schemes the President of the Board of Trade had been incom- petent to protect public interests, and that therefore the Company had been able to secure rights without any protection being given to the needs of the general traffic. He called attention to the fact that at the end of last session a very remarkable discussion took place in respect to what had occurred in a Committee room with regard to a scheme that was intimately allied to and formed part of the system of tramways which this Bill was designed to carry on. The promoters of those Bills and of this Bill were practically the same persons. There was last year a scandal with regard to private Bill legislation such as had never been known in this House. The House therefore should regard with very suspicious scrutiny any proposals which these promoters submitted to the House.

*MR. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.)

said this Bill was not one of those which ought to be postponed until the Commission had reported, for the reason that it did not provide in any way for new tramways, but merely provided for widening certain streets in compliance with the pledges given by the Company to the House and to the local authorities. He should have thought that the question of widening streets was more a matter for the Committee upstairs to which this Bill ought to go rather than a reason for postponing the Bill until the result of the Royal Commission was ascertained. He did not see the necessity, therefore, to postpone the Second Reading, and lie hoped his hon. friend would not press the matter.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

said he desired to point out to the hon. Gentleman who proposed the rejection of the Bill that such action was absolutely inconsistent with the attitude ho had taken up with regard to the City and North-East Suburban Electric Railway Bill which was lately before the House. On that occasion the hon. Gentleman asked that the Bill, which dealt with a line twenty-two-and-a-half miles in length, which in his (Mr. Burns'), opinion ought to have been postponed, should be read a second time, whilst in this case he asked for the rejection of the Measure. How the hon. Gentleman could reconcile those two attitudes he did not know.

Read a second time and committed.