HC Deb 26 April 1906 vol 156 cc97-105

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."


said he desired to move the clause of which he had given notice.† †The Clause was as follows:—;The Company shall, upon all their trains carrying first and third-class passengers upon which sleeping accommodation is provided, provide such accommodation for the use of third-class passengers.


said that new clause would not be in order, but the hon. Member could raise such discussion as he desired upon the first Motion that stood in his name on the Paper.


said in that case he was inclined to move that the debate should be adjourned in order that he might have an opportunity of framing a clause that would be in order. He had no desire to destroy this Bill, and therefore he would move that its consideration should be adjourned.


said if he might advise the hon. Member he would respectfully advise him not to take that course, because he very much doubted whether any clause which the hon. Gentleman could frame would be in order. On the Second Reading he had ruled that the Instruction of which the hon. Member had given notice was not in order, and that being so it was impossible that the clause which the hon. Member desired to carry out that Instruction could be in order. Therefore, any clause which had that object in view would not be in order, but the hon. Member was entitled to raise a discussion on the point he desired to raise on the Motion that the Bill be considered this day six months.


said in that case he would take the advice of Mr. Speaker. He did not know whether anyone was present to answer for the Midland Railway Company, but he wished to know whether that Railway Company meant to do anything to meet the demands made by the third - class passengers for sleeping accommodation similar to that given to first-class passengers. The only answer he had obtained up to the present was that it would not pay. But every one knew that no first-class passenger traffic paid, and the company, therefore, paid the losses on the first-class passenger traffic out of the profits made on the third-class. It was not right to continue to take the money of the third-class passengers to pay the loss made on the sleeping accommodation given to the first-class without giving the third-class passengers the same facilities. Although he did not to-night wish to go the length of throwing out the Bill he warned the Midland and other railway companies that unless they dealt fairly with all classes of passengers that the time would come when the House would tell them that it was no use to come asking favours, unless they were prepared to deal fairly with all classes of passengers using their lines. He gladly admitted that the Midland was one of the most respectable railways in the United Kingdom, and he did not want to damage their interests. Therefore he would, as a matter of form only, move that this Bill be considered this day six months.

SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

in seconding the Motion, said that on the last occasion when this Bill was before the House he called attention to a series of matters affecting the city of Sheffield in regard to its railway connections. His right hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Epping Division of Essex on that occasion said, although he was not connected with the railway company in any way, that he was informed by the Midland Railway Company that the matters to which he (Sir Howard Vincent) had referred were engaging the earnest attention of the company. But he had received only this afternoon a letter from the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Manufactures, in reply to a letter he had sent, stating that they had heard nothing from the railway company, and there had been no change in the railway arrangements. It was a serious matter with which they were dealing, and concerned the comfort and convenience of a city of nearly 400,000 inhabitants. The suggestions which they made to the railway companies were not to increase the accommodation or the number of trains, but the people of Sheffield claimed that they were entitled to return tickets at reduced fares, and to week-end tickets in the same way as other towns which were further off. They also thought it would be advantageous if the return tickets and season tickets were made interchangeable and available on the three lines which ran into Sheffield. They had brought this matter before the Midland and other companies, but could get no further. They were unable to get any response from these three great companies, because it was not a question for the Midland Company alone. The propositions which they had made were of quite as much advantage to the railway companies as they were to the people of Sheffield. It was a matter of great importance to the commercial interests of Sheffield that they should have these passenger facilites connected with that great city. Because Sheffield could not get any answer in accordance with the assurance given to his hon. and gallant friend, who was not in any way to blame, because, on the last occasion, he had only given the answer he was asked to give, he was compelled for form's sake to second the Motion of the hon. Member for Suther-landshire.

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

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said he had very little to add to what he said on the last occasion. When this Bill was before the House on the 20th of March last, the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire brought forward practically the same Motion as he had brought to-night, and the hon. Member for Central Sheffield made practically the same speech. He himself gave the answer he was instructed to give, and he confessed that he was disappointed that his hon. friend should have been able to reproach him to-night with his not having received an answer from the company. He hoped his hon. friend, after this debate, would receive an authentic answer from the company. He was very far from saying that the question raised by the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire was not an important one, but he maintained that a General Powers Bill of this sort was not the occasion on which to raise it. If the railway company could see their way to do anything without loss of income, they would so so. But this was a question of internal management, and unless the House was prepared to take away all the management of their affairs from the Company it was rather unfair to try and postpone a Bill of this kind by introducing a question which had nothing to do with it.


asked what occasion, if not this, should be taken for bringing this matter forward.


said it was not his business to give advice to hon. Members as to the proper occasion on which to raise questions. He merely said that this was not the proper occasion. After having been defeated on this question on previous occasions, was it fair to the railway company to raise it again?


agreed that as a decision had been arrived at, the matter ought not to have been again raised, but he thought it his duty to say that the opinions he had been able to collect showed that there was a growing feeling in the House that something should be done to afford facilities in the direction named. The Midland Railway Company had been one of the most enterprising of the railway companies in affording facilities for third class traffic, but he thought if the right hon. and gallant Member for the Epping Division would convey to this company and other railway companies with which he had opportunities of contact the growing feeling in the House, it might serve a useful purpose.


said perhaps he might be allowed to interrupt to say that there were hon. Members who knew that he had already taken up this question with the railway companies.


said the Board of Trade had also taken the matter up, but probably an expression of opinion from the right hon. and gallant Member, such as he had indicated, might tend to secure progress in the direction required. He was sure the Board of Trade would assist in every way they could. Of course he could not arbitrarily dictate to the railway companies what they should do. He hoped the hon. Member would not press this matter to a division, but would allow the Bill to proceed, and rely upon the right hon. and gallant Member to represent to the railway companies the feeling that was growing in the House in favour of such accommodation.




And we at the Board of Trade will do our best also.


said it was very kind of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to consent to make representations to the railway companies, and he should look for results. He had said that they could not interfere with the internal arrangements of the railway companies. He (Mr. Weir) should like to know why. This was a general powers Bill and was a most opportune time. A dozen years ago he raised the question of a purer atmosphere in the underground railways of London, and he had the satisfaction to-day of knowing that there was a better atmosphere in the tunnels. They ought to use every occasion in this House to get railway reforms. It was not fair that a week-end or return ticket could not be used at any station on the return journey if the holder did not wish to go back the whole way. He asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to bring the matter to the notice of the railway companies. Surely an enterprising railway company like the Midland Railway Company could devise some means of accommodating the large and important body of commercial men by providing third class sleeping accommodation.

MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)

supported the Motion. At the same time he wished to associate himself with everything that had been said as to the indebtedness of the British public to the Midland Railway Company. He thought third class passengers owed every advantage they had received in recent years to the pioneering of the Midland Company. Therefore, if he was apparently supporting a vote of censure on the company, it was because that was the only method open to impress upon railway companies the desire for improvements in the direction referred to. The commercial travellers on this great system had long suffered a great privation which they should no longer suffer. Reference had been made to the fact that progress in this direction was comparatively easy, and he would point out that the railway company with which they were specially dealing had quite recently taken a step forward, which he thought would convince them of the desirability of granting this further concession. He referred to the sleeping accommodation for a nominal fee on the Midland Railway Company's steamers to Belfast. The opening of this service had brought about a remarkable improvement in the services of the other companies, and more especially in the service managed and controlled by the Board which the right hon. Member for the Epping Division of Essex represented in this House. They had long been under the dominion of the London and North Western Railway Companies, and they had never received a concession from that company which had not been dragged out of them by competition. He thought the public had a right to demand still more concessions from the London and North Western Railway Company.


Order! order! We are now discussing the affairs of the Midland Railway Company.


said that the railway companies acted together in these matters, and it was only in that connection he was referring to the London and North Western Railway. Whenever the Midland Railway Company had full powers they granted these week-end concessions without any great pressure of public opinion being brought to bear upon them. Apparently the hon. Member opposite was not aware how much they were indebted to the Scotch railway companies in regard to these reforms. The position was, as regarded Edinburgh and Glasgow, that if they wanted to get down on Friday evenings to the great cities, first class passengers were offered special privileges while third class passengers received no such privileges. This was a monstrous injustice to the third class passenger, who contributed 88 per cent, of the returns of the company. Speaking with a considerable knowledge of railway matters on the other side of the Atlantic, he could assure the House that in America no railway company ever thought of charging more than 8s. for a comfortable sleeping berth upon a third class fare. It had been found profitable in America, and he urged this reform upon the railway companies of Great Britain, being fully persuaded that it would be in the best interests of the shareholders. At present there was no concession on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to the poor unfortunate commercial traveller, who was charged full fare. Unless there happened to be a strong competition by water service no concession was made to third class passengers. He hoped the result of a free expression of opinion on this question would be that the railway companies would reconsider this matter.

MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)

said he had been communicated with by commercial travellers in the East of England, who stated how great a boon it would be if this third class sleeping accommodation was provided. He hoped this proposal would bring about the reform which these commercial travellers so very earnestly desired.


said he had made it his business to inquire of the different railway companies as to the feasibility of carrying out this proposal, and the officials informed him that they had recommended this policy for the last thirty years. They had been asked why they were raising this point now. His reply was that this was the only way in which they could raise it. Railway companies had been granted a monopoly, and therefore Parliament had a right to some control in regard to the way in which they carried on their business. It was essential that nowadays they should give every facility to commercial men to carry on their business as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible. He was glad that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade had expressed an opinion in favour of this proposal.


said that after the sympathetic way in which the representative of the Board of Trade had spoken upon this question, and the promise of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, he was willing to withdraw his Amendment. He wished to state that he had made no attack whatever upon any particular railway company. It happened that the Midland Railway Company was the first that came to hand, and he expected his right hon. and gallant friend opposite to do something in this matter. He wished to intimate that he should have another shot upon this subject when the Great Northern Railway Bill came forward, and that the matter would not be allowed to drop.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, considered; to be read the third time.

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