§ Read a second time, and committed.
§ MR. BELL (Derby)
said that he had given notice of an Instruction to the Committee to strike out the clause making certain requirements with regard to the pension fund which the company had provided for its employees. He was sorry to find that in some instances certain companies had used undue influence to compel their employees to become members of such funds. He did not, however, propose to press the Instruction if he received an assurance on behalf of the promoters that no undue influence would be brought to bear on any of the railway servants to become members of the fund. He found that the men in the employ of the North Eastern Company were equally divided in opinion as to the advantages of the fund, and under the circumstances he did not think he would be doing justice either to the Company or to the men if he pressed his Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Clause 37."—(Mr. Bell.)
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
said that on behalf of the North Eastern Railway Company he was prepared to give the assurance for which the hon. Member asked.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax) moved an instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill would be referred, limiting the provisions of Clause 38 to omnibuses, coaches, cars, and other road vehicles conveying persons, luggage, parcels, and goods to and from the company's railway stations. The persons with whom he was acting had not the slightest wish to prevent the facilities for transit in the country districts where there was no such provision at the present time. The only point they desired to take up was that it was a little too much 741 to ask Parliament for statutory power to use funds for purposes other than those for which they were originally raised, and possibly to crush out the competition of other means of locomotion by the weight of the company's capital. He was glad to understand from the promoters that there was no such intention in their minds, and that there was a probability that a reasonable agreement might be arrived at.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is referred that they limit the provisions of Clause 38 to omnibuses, coaches, cars, and other road vehicles conveying persons, luggage, parcels, and goods to and from the company's railway stations."—(Mr. Wkitley.)
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said he understood that the object of his hon. friend in moving the instruction was that limiting words should be introduced into the clause protecting tramways especially from what he considered unfair or undue competition. Owing to the powers exercised by railway companies under this clause he thought it not unreasonable his hon. friend should desire some safeguard of the kind suggested. He thought the promoters would be prepared to say that there should be nothing in the section which would authorise the company to run an omnibus in any borough or urban district otherwise than those from the stations of the company. He was not sure that those words went the whole length which his hon. friend desired, but he thought they indicated, definitely, willingness on the part of the company to consider some safeguard such as was suggested. At the same time the suggestion as it stood would be impossible. Supposing his hon. friend's Instruction were carried, it would be impossible for a railway company running an omnibus to a village six miles away to drop anyone on the return journey at an intermediate village three miles away. He suggested that the Bill should be allowed to proceed to the Committee, and then, if an entirely satisfactory arrangement was not arrived at, his hon. friend could raise the point at a subsequent stage.
§ SIR CHARLES RENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)
said he feared that if the Instruction were agreed to it would prevent a useful extension of the proposed power in rural districts. He was one of those who were watching with interest the co-operative movements intended to place agriculture on a sounder basis, and he attached special importance to the facilities offered by railways and proposals of this kind. The hon. Member for Halifax spoke as representing the tramway interest. The statutory powers which the railways enjoyed had been seriously affected by the competition of tramways, but they had had to submit to it. The railways admitted that they constituted a substantial gain to the travelling public, but what the promoters of the Bill asked for was that the facilities which tramways had given in the cities might be extended far beyond the bounds to which it was possible that the tramway system would ever extend, and so afford agriculturists an opportunity of putting their commodities on the market in the most economical way. It was on the lines of that clause that the great future development of agriculture would probably take place, and he, therefore, hoped the House would never agree to the Instruction proposed.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
said he thought the power which would, under the clause in dispute, be accorded to the railway company, would be used to the hindrance and obstruction of the development of tramway traction by private and municipal enterprise. It authorised a railway to own a tramway, and it would then be in the power of a railway company enjoying a monopoly to prevent a tramway company or local authority from supplying public wants. He would reserve his right of opposing the Bill on the Report Stage unless it was provided that the power which this clause conferred was not to be applied to boroughs or urban districts.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he thought the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick was sufficient to enable them to pass the Bill for the present. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to be willing to insert 743 certain words which he had read, and further, he would consider in Committee whether further words were needed to carry out his intention. He and the hon. Baronet were practically agreed, therefore, and it only remained for the clause to be properly formulated in Committee.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said he hoped that nothing would be done to injure the important interests of municipalities owning extensive tramways.
§ SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)
said he warned the House to be very careful before agreeing to the compromise. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick was rather disposed to give too many assurances to the hon. Member for Halifax and other opponents. The House ought not to be bound by any arrangement made outside, so that when the Bill had passed through Committee it might be revised by the House entirely in the interests of the travelling public and of the traders and agriculturists whose goods they wished to see transported from agricultural districts. The hon. Member for North-East Durham seemed to object to a railway company having a tramway running along a road, but he hoped no compromise would be made that would prevent a railway company from doing anything of that sort. In many cases such a power would be of the greatest advantage, and he only regretted that railway companies were too little inclined to offer such facilities. Such tramways would have the additional merit of preventing the destruction which was caused to the roads at present by heavy motor traffic. The House ought to be zealous to see that the public interests were protected and not interfered with in any way, whatever compromise might be arrived at outside the House. He desired to say no more at the present stage, except to assure his right hon. friend who was acting for the railway directors on this occasion, that anything he did in the Committee upstairs to give greater facilities for bringing agricultural produce into the great centres of population would receive the support of all agricultural Members like himself.
§ MR. LLOYD WHARTON (Yorkshire W.R., Ripon)
said that under this Bill they were granting a motor omnibus which would run a horse-shoe journey through a district where there was not a light railway, and where they had asked the railway company to put down a light railway, which had been refused because there was no possibility of it being made to pay. This motor omnibus would run through several villages, and if this Instruction were passed it would deprive those villages of the benefits of this motor omnibus service. Such a course would be absolutely injurious to the interests of the poor people in those districts. This railway company enjoyed a large monopoly, and they were anxious to provide for the requirements of those districts, where they could do, it at little or no profit. He assured the House that the money earned by this company was hardly in excess of the expenses, but what they were now proposing gave satisfaction to the inhabitants of the districts concerned, and provided them with means of locomotion which they would not otherwise have. There were many other districts in which this railway company could carry out a similar policy with great advantage to the population, and he hoped that after the assurance which had been given the House would agree to read the Bill a second time.
§ MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU (Hampshire, New Forest)
said that, as the representative of an agricultural constituency and a motorist, he was anxious to see no hindrances placed upon facilities for motor omnibus travelling. It was very desirable that the House of Commons should not interfere with the development of the cheapest and most convenient form of locomotion.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said that he could not extend the undertaking he had given, nor could he withdraw from it. The hon. Member for Halifax was perfectly free to raise further points in Committee.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.