HC Deb 16 May 1906 vol 157 cc581-4

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. CHIOZZA MONEY (Paddington, N.),

in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, craved the indulgence of the House in view of the fact that he had only just learned that he might have the opportunity to speak on the Bill that night. He said that the measure was of a very simple, he might almost say of a non-contentious character. Nothing was more remarkable in our social life in recent years than the rapid growth of municipal trading. It was remarkable not only for the rapidity of its growth, but also for its success, especially in connection with such undertakings as water works, gas works, tramways, electric lighting, and other spheres of economic production. Experience of many of the largest provincial cities in England and Scotland had shown that municipal trading, so called, had passed beyond the bounds of the experimental stage; and the result so far had been, as was proved by a Return moved for by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, a triumphant vindication of municipal enterprise. Not only did these undertakings pay interest on capital, and for a sinking fund, but there was a balance left over in each case for the reduction of the local rates. That was a very remarkable fact, and if one took the trouble to compare the towns which had undertaken many municipal works with those which had undertaken few, it would be found that the rates in the towns where there were few municipal undertakings were much higher than in the towns where there was great municipal activity; and the profits had gone in relief of the local rates. He could multiply indefinitely instances in which towns by means of municipal undertakings had relieved their rates, but it was unnecessary to do so. A wise policy for our towns was that of large extension, and they should free themselves from that fringe of slums which disgraced them. Towns should look forward and purchase and control a large area outside their present boundaries with a view to the future construction of roads, tramways, light railways and make other public improvements possible. These things should be considered in advance as they were in Germany, and if the policy he advocated was to be carried out successfully, it became obvious that a town must secure a wide belt of land around its present area. If they did that in advance they could buy land very cheaply and their future developments would be comparatively inexpensive and easily carried out. If room were left for healthy development the town of the future would be a very different place from what it was to-day. To realise this, hon. Members had only to go round London and see the huge towns which were growing up in places where, under proper conditions, we might have garden cities. Let them take, for instance, Tottenham, or worse still, Walthamstow. Walthamstow was built upon a site the natural beauties of which were so great that he doubted whether they could be equalled in any part of the United Kingdom. It was on the borders of Epping Forest, but under the conditions now prevailing it was rapidly becoming a slum. It consisted of sordid-looking houses of uniform pattern. If they were to improve this condition of things they must give the municipalities power to purchase land in advance as was provided for in this Bill. If that were done, the land values would in future belong to the community instead of to the individual. He passed over the clause in regard to housing, because it dealt with some considerations of which he had been speaking, and in view of the few minutes at his disposal pass to the important fifth clause. That clause dealt with the problem caused by the fact that the State could not have, and had not, proper control over these monopolies that had sprung up, and were springing up, in this country. That very evening they had been discussing some of the evils which sprang from private monopoly of common services. It was the same question which the Government of the United States of America had to face. His proposal was that they should oppose to the private trust and private combination public ownership. By that means they would get, not only economic production and proper management, but the full result of the application of labour, capital, and material to a particular undertaking. If this course were pursued, real cheapness would be secured, which would contain no elements of nastiness. Let them take, for instance, the system of the distribution of that common necessity coal, which was permeated by the worst tricks of commercialism. If they gathered that distribution together under one control, and that a popular one, they would get the coal supplied to the consumer at a much lower price. That principle might, it was true, be taken up to the fountain head of the production of coal, but at least it might apply to its distribution. If we had economic production and distribution we should get the very best results out of our capital, and out of our labour, and we should thus settle not only the question of cheapness but the labour question, which was the greatest question of all. Then we should have our production and distribution conducted not for private gain but for public good. There would not be the incentive to make profit, but that of getting the very boat result from our capital, labour and material. That was the principle of this Bill, the Second Heading of which he begged to move.

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

MR. CAVE (Surrey, Kingston)

thought that this was one of the most ridiculous Bills over brought before the House of Commons. In the first place, the Bill provided that the local authority should be able to buy any amount of land without giving any reason whatever for doing so. In the second place the local authority could carry on any trade without giving any justification, and could in that way speculate with the ratepayers' money to any extent.

And, it being Eleven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.

Adjourned at three minutes after Eleven o'clock.