§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [19th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Which Amendment was—
§ "To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, and add the words 'no Bill can be satisfactory to this House which confers increased powers on a railway company created by Act of Parliament which has subscribed out of its corporate funds to a Party organisation.'"—(Mr. Trevelyan.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
said he desired to say one word on this question, though he could speak only by leave of the House. On the last occasion when the matter was discussed, the debate was adjourned rather in order to afford an opportunity for the representatives of the railway companies to make some statement which would reassure the House as to the future policy of these great statutory corporations. He was sorry to say that no assurance of that kind had been forthcoming. He was afraid that there was not sufficient unity amongst them with regard to the course which they proposed to follow. He very much regretted that the clear and emphatic statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Epping Division and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mouth Dublin had not been adopted by other railway directors; but unfortunately they had not been able to agree, and there was now no satisfactory declaration on behalf of the railway companies. The only information they had when they 350 debated the matter on the previous occasion was that one railway company —namely, the London and North-Western Company—had subscribed to the funds of a political organisation. Since then three or four other companies had owned up; and there was good reason to believe that they were only samples out of many. In fact, from information received, he was justified in believing that it had been almost a general practice. That made it really very serious, and the Government had come to the conclusion that they must deal with the matter as a whole. It was perfectly clear that they could not discuss questions of this kind on the merits of each individual private Bill, because that was unfair not merely to the Bill, but to the railway companies and to the general public, as most of the Bills were for the purpose of increasing the travelling facilities of the public. In regard to this particular Bill it was in part promoted, as the result of pressure brought by the Board of Trade, to increase the facilities for workmen to travel at cheap rates. It seemed hard that because the company had done something which, in the judgment of hon. Members, corporations with statutory powers ought not to do, therefore these workmen should be punished by the curtailing of their facilities for travelling. He had, therefore, found it necessary, in order really to help railway companies to get good Bills through the House, to face the general question. He proposed, on behalf of the Government, in so far as they had powers—and they had very considerable powers in the Board of Trade in this respect—so to alter the schedules of the accounts furnished by railway and statutory companies to the Board of Trade as to force them to disclose, at any rate, subscriptions of this kind. He did not suppose the railway companies would object to that. It was fair that the shareholders should know, because they were not all of one mind. He did not think they were all Moderates. No doubt there were some who held fair and intelligent views. He had no doubt that a very fair proportion of the shareholders would object to such contributions; at any rate they ought to be given an opportunity of objecting. Such subscriptions ought not 351 to be included in "general sundries" or "miscellaneous services;" the shareholders ought to know of them. That was as far as they could go with their present powers. But it would be open to the railway companies to say, "Yes, we have subscribed to these associations, but we stand by those subscriptions and defend them." It would then be for the House to deal with that situation. In the United States of America last year they passed a very drastic Bill to deal with circumstances of a similar character. That Bill forbade statutory corporations to make any money contribution towards political objects in connection with any election to any political office. It covered the whole ground as regarded statutory companies, and prohibited the interference of limited liability companies in any kind of political contest. He did not think they ought to legislate in advance of proved grievances, and for the present he did not think that any kind of case was made out against limited liability companies. What the Government now proposed was this. They proposed to introduce a Bill for the purpose of forbidding statutory corporations to make contributions out of their funds towards political contests. Of course, he could give no pledge with regard to the time when it would be introduced. They had a few things to deal with this year already, and he was afraid the deliberations upon them were likely to be rather prolonged. He trusted his hon. friends would consider that to be satisfactory. [Cries of "No."] He thought it would be a very serious thing if they did not, and he asked his hon. friends on that side of the House to pause, He did not think it was fair that they should prevent a Bill going through which would have the effect of increasing railway facilities for a good many districts— facilities demanded by the general public, and which the railway companies were seeking to give as a result of the demand of the general public. He would go further, and say it was not to the interest —he would not say of the general public, but he would put it on Party ground and say it was not in the interest of the Liberal Party—to put obstacles in the way of legitimate expenditure to develop the resources of the country. He earnestly trusted that his hon. friend would 352 see his way to withdraw the Amendment, and in any event he himself would support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said he desired to make a personal statement on a subject that affected his personal credit in the House. He recalled that when this Bill was under the consideration of the House on the last occasion he stated that the London and North-Western Railway Company had never subscribed a shilling to any political fund, and that the hon. Member for Denbigh District, challenging that statement, alleged that the directors had subscribed to the funds of the Free Labour Association for the purpose of securing contracting-out of the Employers' Liability Bill of 1883. In contradicting the statement he then made he did not think for a moment that the hon. Member would say that he was purposely deceiving the House.
said he took it at the time that the hon. Member thought he had made a statement which was unsupported by evidence. Since then the officials of the company had at his request made the most thorough and searching examination of the whole-of the company's payments from 1883 to 1903 inclusive, and that investigation had failed to disclose any such payment, either direct or indirect, as that alleged by the hon. Member for Denbigh District. He was not satisfied even with that, and a further search was made for all the payments of £25 and twenty-five guineas to make sure that no such payment had been made in any indirect manner, but the result was the same. He asserted, without fear of contradiction, that there was not a shadow of foundation for the suggestion made in a newspaper, which, he hoped, was the only foundation for the hon. Member's statement, that the directors of the London and North-Western had ever subscribed, directly or indirectly, to the funds of the association in question. He hoped the hon. Member might now see his way to withdraw a remark made, he had no doubt, under a misapprehension.
MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS
said that whatever he stated in the House on a previous occasion was not in the least degree intended to reflect upon the credibility of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. It often happened that Members were called upon in the House to make statements concerning facts which were not within their own personal knowledge. He took that to be the position with regard to the statement of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. That was the position in which he himself was placed, and when he was given certain information he thought it his duty to make the most careful and exhaustive inquiry into the evidence upon which his statement was based. He made such an inquiry in this case and a great mass of evidence was placed before him. As the result of those inquiries he came to the conclusion that the evidence as to the accuracy of his statement was overwhelming. He had instituted inquiries with the view of tracing the whereabouts of the man who was secretary of the Free Labour Association at the time when this contribution was alleged to have been made, and he had a sworn statement dated 6th April, 1907, from that person, John Sennett, stevedore, which he proposed to read to the House. The statement was as follows—
"I, John Sennett, 78, Cathay Street, Union Road, Rotherhithe, stevedore, make oath and say as follows:—
- "1. On or about June 22nd, 1892, at the instigation of Mr. G. A. Laws of the Shipping Federation I formed the Free Labour Association with offices in Myrdle Street, Commercial Road, E. The said Mr. Laws gave me £40 to float the association. I at once issued in the name of the Free Labour Association a manifesto throughout London denouncing trade unionism and the Liberal Party, and urging the London workmen to support the Conservative Party. The Association at this time, consisted of seven Committee men, a chairman, and myself as secretary and treasurer.
- "2. My colleagues and myself at once proceeded to collect subscriptions from anti-trade union employers, Conservative candidates and the Conservative headquarters. The Conservative headquarters paid me £50 before, and £100 immediately after the 1892 election. The £50 was paid me by Mr. Rowbotham and the £100 by Captain Middleton.
- "3. When the Liberal Government introduced; their Employers Liability Bill the Free Labour Association at once started an agitation in favour of 'contracting out.' The London and North Western Railway Company, it will be
354 remembered, took a leading part in the agitation for 'contracting out' so as to preserve their insurance society. We called a conference on the subject, at which Mr. W. Ellis, an official of; the London and North Western Railway 'Company attended as representing the London and North Western Railway Insurance Society.
- ''4. Towards the expenses of this conference and agitation the London and North Western Railway Company contributed the sum of £25 to our funds. The sum was paid through Mr. Ellis, the said official of the London and North Western Railway Company, who almost immediately afterwards became an official of the said Free Labour Association. I myself had part of the said £25 in part payment of my expenses for advocating that the London and North Western Railway Company should be allowed to contract their men out of the Employers Liability Act if it became law, so as to preserve their insurance society.
- "5. A number of the "contracting out employers contributed to our funds at the same time, and it was upon this money that we ran the agitation in favour of contracting out.'
- "6. If the London and North Western Railway Company had not so contributed we should not have allowed their official to attend our conference, nor should we have run the agitation in favour of their insurance society as in fact we did by letters, manifestoes, meetings and resolutions.
"Sworn at No. 10, Bell Yard, Fleet Street, in the City of London this 6th day of April, 1907.— Before me.
(Signed) J. H. HOPE. A Commissioner for Oaths. (Signed) JOHN SENNETT.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
I adhere to every word I have said, and I would ask the hon. Member, if he does not see fit to withdraw the allegation in the House, to repeat the allegation outside the House.
§ MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.R., Elland)
said he wished to say a few words in answer to the appeal which had been made to him to withdraw his Motion. The House would recollect that the two main reasons he gave in its support, and which appeared to meet with the approval of the House, were, first, that the company ought to give back the money it had subscribed out of the funds belonging to the shareholders and repay it into the funds of the company; secondly, that he would not withdraw his Motion unless he felt that there was some security against any repetition of this conduct by the company in question. The House would recollect the speech in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epping stated 355 that the company had given back the subscription and considered that they had made a mistake in giving it. He did not think that the majority of the House were satisfied that that was sufficient security against a repetition of the conduct. To-night a statement had been made by the President of the Board of Trade, who had stated that the Government, with the powers they already possessed, would insist upon publicity being given to all subscriptions of this kind by all railway companies. The right hon. Gentleman had also promised that the Government would introduce legislation in order to make it absolutely illegal that such subscriptions should be given. It might be objected that the right hon. Gentleman had not promised to introduce legislation on the question this year. He was satisfied, however, with the promise, because there were no elections imminent. That being so, he thought they might safely anticipate that the right hon. Gentleman would carry out his intention next year of passing what would necessarily be a very short Bill. Under these circumstances he believed that in the right hon. Gentleman's promise they had got security against a repetition of any such conduct by the railway companies as that on which the House felt so strongly, and as far as he was concerned, he would be ready to withdraw the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ * MR. LEA (St. Pancras, E.)
said that there were a large number of London and North-Western employees in his constituency; and in competing for their votes the Conservative and Moderate candidates at the general election and County Council election respectively had several privileges given to them. He would like to recall to the House what had been the policy of this railway company for many years. A few weeks ago, when this question was brought before the House, the right hon. and gallant Member for the Epping Division stated that the company was unaware that the Municipal Reform League was a political organisation.
§ * MR. LEA
said that one of the directors of the company was a Moderate candidate for Haggerston, and facts had subsequently come out to show that he knew what the objects of the Municipal Reform League were. This was not an isolated case. At every Parliamentary and County Council election in East St. Pancras the Conservative and Moderate candidates had been favoured by the company. In the first place the men had been summoned to Euston to hear addresses from these candidates, while similar opportunities had been denied to the candidates on the other side. Some official, too, supplied the favoured candidates with the names and addresses of all the railway servants in the constituency, so that the men were made the recipients of letters and circulars pointing out the serious effect of increased rates on wages and employment. The following circular, signed by Messrs. Barnes & Organ, and addressed from the offices of the East St. Pancras Conservative Association, was sent out during the recent County Council election—
RATES AND WAGES OF RAILWAY SERVANTS.
Private and Confidential.
18, Camden Street. N.W. 13th February, 1907.
DEAR SIR,—May we venture to call your attention to the importance of the coming London County Council Election to you as a railway employee. It is of the utmost consequence to you that the present rate in London should be reduced.
The rates and taxes paid by the railway companies in various parts of the Kingdom amounted, in 1905, to nearly £5,000,000, and represented an increase during the past nine years of nearly £2,000,000.
The last official Returns show that the largest increase in the cost per train-mile in the year 1905 is in respect of rates and taxes.
The effect of such increase in rates on the railway companies is to retard an advance in wages and not merely this, but to seriously impede, railway development throughout the country, thus tending to reduce the employment which the railway companies would otherwise be providing.
Lloyd's Weekly recently called attention to the persistent rumour that the Great Eastern Railway contemplate moving their locomotive works to Ipswich, owing to the burden of the rates. The railway companies in London are equally experiencing the baneful effect of Progressive rates, which, if not reduced, must
ultimately re-act to the detriment of all railway servants living in and around London.
The Municipal Reform Party is pledged to a policy of economy with efficiency, and to actively advancing the social welfare of the industrial working classes.
For this, and for other reasons, we trust we may be favoured with your support at the coming London County Council Elections.
We are, dear Sir, Yours faithfully, EDMUND BARNES. T. A. ORGAN.
When this question was last before the House he had no opportunity of stating these facts, and he spoke to the right hon. and gallant Member for the Epping Division outside. He felt perfectly convinced after what the House had heard from the righ hon. and gallant Member, that action of the kind described would not continue in future if he could prevent it. But what he himself and his constituents had to think of was what was going to happen when the right hon. and gallant Member was no longer in the London and North-Western Railway Board. They had suffered for the last twenty years in this matter. He was not committing any breach of secrecy when he said that one of the Members who formerly sat for his constituency told him how it was done. Indeed it was done in his own case at the last general election. Sir Thomas Wrightson had the privilege of addressing the railway employees at Euston. When he applied for a like privilege it was denied to him. The result, so far as he was concerned, was a most happy one. He would like to know from the President of the Board of Trade what measures he proposed to adopt to prevent subscriptions of this kind being given in future, He was in formed that the names of shareholders and debenture holders in railway companies were not filed at Somerset House as in the case of limited liability companies. If there was a register of names available for public inspection, one would be able to see whether on account of the political views of the shareholders there was any hanky-panky business going on. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he could give an assurance, apart from money contributions, that measures would be taken to make railway companies remain absolutely impartial in all political and municipal contests.
§ * MR. HAROLD COX (Preston)
thanked the President of the Board of Trade for putting the matter in a clear light. He was quite sure that everybody would agree with the proposition the right hon. Gentleman had laid down with respect to the payment of such subcriptions, but whether he would find it so easy to introduce a Bill as he had sketched out he felt a little doubtful. While they were all agreed that it was extremely undesirable that great companies should spend money on political objects, yet when they came to deal with it in detail they would find that the principle applied not only to statutory companies, but to all companies and even to wealthy individuals. He could not see how the right hon. Gentleman was going to draw the line nor how he was going to deal with the greater evil of political pressure brought to bear by railway companies upon their servants. He entirely agreed with what had been said as to the intolerable situation that would arise if the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Elland Division were carried. It was a monstrous proposal. [Cries of "Oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] It amounted to this, that because a railway company came to Parliament with a scheme which no one denied was one of public interest, therefore the House of Commons, having the company by the throat, should force it to do something which they had no legal right to ask it to do. There had been in the past many landlords with tenants who had honourably discharged all their obligations, but the landlords still were not satisfied. They went to those tenants and said, "Although you have done all we require you to do, yet because we have you by the throat we shall require you to vote the way we want you to." That was analagous to the position taken up by the hon. Member for the Elland Division. The matter should be dealt with by legislation, and not in the way proposed by the hon. Member. The mere fact that this company came to the House for fresh powers did not give the House the right to force upon them what his hon. friend proposed. [An HON. MEMBER: Yes, it does.] Let him look at the matter a little more deeply. What happened when they granted powers to a railway company? They gave a monopoly on 359 certain conditions. The company had to give certain services, and agree not to charge beyond certain maximum fares. That was a bargain. Parliament had a right to insist on that bargain. That was their "pound of flesh." They had no right to go beyond that and introduce irrelevant matters. He would remind the House that hon. Members who were appointed to Private Bill Committees had to make a declaration that they had no personal interest in the Bill. But that did not apply when the Bill was before the Whole House. He knew that his hon. friend was only acting in what he thought the public interest; but surely there was a danger of corruption if Members took advantage of their position in the House to extort concessions from railway companies. The procedure in the House, as in Private Bill Committees, should be a judicial procedure. A very important point had been raised by this discussion, and that was that railway companies and other corporations had at present no representation whatever upon local bodies. Only that morning he had received a letter from a constituent who pointed out that the company with which he was concerned, and which had been built up by his father, was very heavily rated, and yet had no representation whatever on the local authority. It was a public scandal and absolutely unjust that these great concerns should be heavily taxed and that they should have no sort of representation on the taxing body. He would remind the House that the liberties of the country and the very existence of the House of Commons depended on the principle that representation should accompany taxation, and they were virtually repudiating that principle when these great companies were taxed and denied all form of representation. He had no scheme of representation to propose. That was a difficult question; but the consideration of it was germane to the present discussion. If great corporations were taxed, he maintained that they must have some method of representation, or they would take other means of defending themselves, and it might be that they would defend themselves corruptly. It might be accepted as certain that when- 360 ever people suffered injustice they would resent and resist it
§ * MR.MICKLEM (Hertfordshire, Watford)
said he was not prepared to agree with the hon. Member for Preston that the railway interests were not represented in the House. He confessed that to him that was an entirely new idea. He quite agreed that the railway interests and other corporations were not directly represented in the House and also on local bodies, but they were indirectly very largely represented both in the House and on local bodies. He did not want in a measure of this kind to follow out in detail the speech of the hon. Member for St. Pancras; he wished to confine himself to the Resolution before the House. He thought the hon. Member for St. Pancras was under a misapprehension. There was no evidence whatever that the directors or officials of the London and North Western Railway had used unfairly their influence in order to obtain votes for certain candidates either for Parliament or local bodies.
§ * MR. MICKLEM
said that the hon.. Member had mentioned the names of two men who had sent out the circular to the employees of the London and North Western Railway Company; but he did not connect these men with the directors of that company.
§ * MR. MICKLEM
said he imagined that no Member of the House would have the least difficulty in ascertaining the names and addresses of all the shareholders in the London and North Western Railway Company, and even of their employees. He would give his own experience. He represented a constituency in which the influence of the London and North Western Railway Company was as strong as anywhere else in England. There were large railway works in Watford, and it was becoming a most important centre for railway men near London. At his election the London and North Western Railway Company had, from first to last, put not the slightest pressure upon any man in their employment to influence his vote in the Watford Division, though there was no division near London in which the contest was more severe. He was glad to bear testimony to that fact, and he asserted that if his hon. friend would submit his document to any unprejudiced lawyer— —he meant a man who could form a fair and just estimate of evidence—he would find that the conclusion he had arrived at was not fairly justified by the evidence. Probably some men had been using the name of the London and North Western Railway Company without authority. He could quite understand the general attitude of the hon. Gentleman, but he could only express to the House his experience which justified him in coming to a conclusion. He wanted to say one word about this particular Bill. It was of the utmost importance, and he might say that he himself had a very grave interest in it. He was not, however, a man of wealth, did not own any shares In the London and North Western Railway and was never likely to be a director of that or any other company.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
You never can tell. There may be a good time coming. I will share the spoils with you.
§ * MR. MICKLEM
said he hoped the hon. Gentleman was a true prophet, but his interest was this. He represented a constituency which would benefit if this railway was made. Watford itself 362 was exceedingly needy, and this was a railway which the people there had been proposing for many years in order further to develop the town. The London and North Western Railway Company had developed Watford so that it had become one of the suburbs of London, and they had there, not only very large railway but very large industrial works, and more industrial works were coming to the town every day. It was therefore essential in the interests of the community of Watford, which was becoming a great industrial centre and which was also a great residential centre, that this Bill should pass. What was the objection to the measure? He confessed that if it were a case in which the London and North Western Railway were deliberately saying "We insist upon our right to subscribe to funds which shall be devoted to political purposes and shall be used in Parliamentary or local affairs to forward the interests of one side"— although he believed this Bill was wanted for the neighbourhood, he would think that the great public interest which such a position raised would justify him in opposing the Bill, because the railway company would be adopting a line which no public body ought to take. But what had happened? Could anything have been fairer, franker, or fuller than the statement of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite who, rising in his place and speaking on behalf of the London and North Western Railway Company, made a statement. An HON. MEMBER: It did not happen whilst he was there. He recognised and he thought the House must recognise that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was speaking not only for himself but for those he represented—the other directors. What did he say? He said in the fullest and frankest manner that this action was indefensible and that immediately the directors understood what they had done and had ascertained that this body was a Party association, they themselves refunded the money they had sent to it and authorised him to apologise to the House. The directors admitted that they had acted under a mistake, but they did their best to withdraw their action. He was not an old Member of the House, but his short experience 363 led him to believe that whatever it was the House was not vindictive. When a man made a mistake and frankly withdrew the House forgave him at once, and when a body outside the House made a mistake and sent down a right hon. and gallant Member to assure them that it had made a mistake and apologised for its conduct, the House ought not to say that the act was deliberately done, but ought to accept the withdrawal and apology, especially if they were satisfied that this particular company was not going to repeat its action and also that the Bill in question was a good Bill which should, apart from the action of the railway company in another matter, be sent upstairs to a Committee. The House not being vindictive ought, he thought, to accept the withdrawal of the railway company and allow the Bill to proceed. He ventured therefore to appeal to the House, not on personal grounds in the least, to allow that course to be taken. He held that the London and North Western Railway Company had acted fairly and honourably by the House. [Cries of, "No."] Well that was his opinion, and he again asserted that nothing could have been fuller and franker than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's apology. Having regard to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, the House was absolutely safeguarded from any repetition of the conduct complained of. In these circumstances he hoped the House would agree to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. BRIGHT (Oldham)
thought he ought to offer some observations to the House before they came to a decision. He was one of the directors of the London and North Western Railway Company, and he was entirely out of sympathy with the association to which this subscription had been unfortunately given. It had, indeed, been rather a trial to him to have to pay out of his own pocket a portion of the subscription which had been given to the last association in the world that he should have subscribed to. He had done his share in making what amends he could, though he admitted that he had not been sufficiently wide awake when the subscription was given. If he had been he would have objected, but he had done his 364 best to make reparation, and he felt a little hurt at some of the observations made by hon. Members. He thought they were a little ungracious. It was, he was certain, untrue that the company took any part in the election at Watford, although of course there might be ardent Conservatives as well as ardent Liberals amongst their employees who took an active part in the contest. To say, however, that the company did so was, he was convinced, absolutely untrue. He joined in the appeal of the last speaker that the House should allow the Bill to pass and he pointed out that if it did not pass it would do no harm to the directors, although it might do harm to the proprietors of the railway, who were absolutely guiltless in the matter. The rejection of the Bill would, moreover, do great injury to the districts through which the railway passed. The hon. Gentleman had mentioned Watford. It was impossible for the railway company to deal properly with the traffic of that place in the present congested condition of their line. They proposed to spend £2,000,000 on this line, and it would lead to a great stoppage of employment if it were not passed. After all the talk about the evils of unemployment he thought it would be a very serious thing for the House to reject this Bill. Then, again, there was Coventry, where an enormous trade was being done in bicycles and motor cars; that place also would be served by the new line. In addition there was the North Wales traffic which in the holiday season was very great, and the present conditions of the line made it very difficult to widen it. All these three projects would be knocked over if this Bill did not pass, and he thought that it would be a most strange and foolish thing if in consequence of a mistake of the directors the Bill was thrown out.
§ * MR. HEMMERDE (Denbighshire, E.)
desired to say a few words in the same sense as the last two speakers. He could not see why the House should throw out this Bill after the explanation given by the right hon. and gallant Member, which he most unreservedly accepted. He could not believe that the House would take the responsibility of throwing out the Bill because the London and North 365 Western Railway Company had done a certain thing acting under a misapprehension. It was open to question whether they had done anything illegal. An hon. Member the other night said with some confidence that the course which they had taken was a legal action. He rather doubted whether it was a legal action, but at any rate they had the explicit assurance that it was not done deliberately. He could not believe that the House would not accept that assurance. Undoubtedly the matter was a very serious one, but he did not believe that the evil of the influence of money in politics could be dealt with, either by the remedy suggested by the President of the Board of Trade, or by throwing out this Bill. They could not seriously deal with the matter by confining their attention merely to statutory companies. The President of the Board of Trade had said that they could not go in advance of public opinion, but he thought the better view was that of a great jurist, that all legislation should be antic capatory of public opinion and antecedent to expectation. If they were to deal properly with this I question, they must, in addition to dealing with statutory companies, also make provisions in regard to all companies and all wealthy individuals who used their wealth for influencing legislation. That was really the question that they were face to face with to-day. The only way to meet that question was ruthlessly to cut down election expenses. Great companies were able to give subscriptions which never appeared in the account of the election expenses of the candidates, and that could only be prevented by legislation to the effect that they should not give these subscriptions unless they were returned in the account of the expenses of the candidates in whom they were interested. They could only do that by putting the strictest and narrowest limits on the power of candidates to spend money in their constituencies. That end would not be attained by losing temper with the London and North-Western Company. After the assurance given by the company, he asked the House to support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. KEARLEY, Devonport)
said the 366 object which had to be decided by the vote upon this Bill was the expenditure of £2,000,000 on a particular class of development. Whatever one's views were on the particular transaction complained of no one would gainsay that the-speech of the right hon. Member for Epping was a most frank avowal, and a guarantee that no such thing should recur. If it had not been for the intervention of one Member on that occasion the House would have been then prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading. His right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade was prepared to recommend that course, but owing to the intervention of the hon. and learned Gentleman it was thought desirable to carry over the discussion. The House had heard his right hon. friend say that in future there should be no reason to complain of any recurrence of the evil. Evidence had come to hand, however, which showed that similar transactions had taken place with dock and railway companies, and his right hon. friend held the view that unless steps were taken at once to check the development of the course which seemed to have been entered upon it would grow into a very great evil. It was under those circumstances that his right hon. friend had come down to the House and promised, first that the Board of Trade rules as to railway accounts should be so changed as to provide that the accounts submitted by the companies should disclose all these transactions; and, secondly, that he would bring in a Bill to deal with the whole matter. There could be, therefore, no complaint of the way in which the Government had met the question. The hon. Member for the Elland Division had withdrawn his Amendment, and he (Mr. Kearley) did not propose to go into the fresh issues that had been raised. He, however, thought it would be desirable if the railway companies could give an assurance either that they would permit neither political Party to have access to their premises, or that they would afford the privilege to both. He could not agree with the exception which had been taken to raising this matter on the Second Reading of a private Bill, and the mere fact of the Government having promised legislation showed how they viewed this evil. He hoped, therefore, the House would now be satisfied with the ample debate which had taken place 367 and allow the Bill to have its Second Reading.
* MR. HERBERT (Buckinghamshire, Wycombe)
said the questions raised were of considerable importance. He thought the hon. Member for Elland had perfomed a public service by calling attention to the facts. He strongly deprecated the introduction of any Party feeling into the matter, and he believed hon. Members in all parts of the House would agree with him if they almly considered the matter. There was a very large majority of Liberals in the House, and this subscription was made to the Moderate cause of the County Council, and a very large majority of Moderates were returned. It might be that if hostile action was taken on this Bill it might derogate from the character of the House. It might be represented as a reprisal for that subscription, and he did not believe any hon. Member would desire any such thing as that. He asked every Member, therefore, before he gave his vote upon the Bill to reflect what interpretation might be placed upon his giving an adverse vote. That state of affairs was a pure accident of the present case; it might well be that upon the Free Trade issue, Railway Companies would consider it to their interest to support the side of Free Trade, and it was therefore a matter which affected all Parties alike and all shareholders alike, and it was a matter which the House ought to attempt to deal with in a calm and judicial spirit. He did not agree with the hon. Baronet that the House was exceeding its rights in dealing with this matter; in his opinion it not only had the right, but it was its bounden duty to take up the matter and deal with it—as it was its duty when any evil arose—as effectively as possible. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade proposed to confine his remedies to statutory companies and not to apply them to all limited companies? They heard the other night that the managers of the dock companies had been advised that they were entitled to make such subscriptions, and that meant that individual shareholders who objected to the subscriptions being made would have to fight a statutory company possibly right up to the House of Lords, and the statutory 368 company would be fighting those individual shareholders with their own money. He thought the same considerations applied to the shareholders of limited companies as to the shareholders of railway companies, and he trusted the President of the Board of Trade would consider whether it would not be wise to extend his proposed Bill to limited companies. There might be a provision expressly providing that the memorandum of association must make mention of the right of the directors to make these contributions if they were intended to have such a right. He hoped that the House would give the Bill a Second Reading. The railway company had acknowledged their error, and hon. Members therefore should give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ MR. STRAUS (Tower Hamlets, Mile End)
asked whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epping could answer this Question: it was rumoured that one of the directors of the company, who was a successful candidate for the County Council, when this matter came before the Board, said if that there was any question about the contribution which had been authorised, he would pay it out of his own pocket.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD,
in reply to the hon. Member for East St. Pancras, said he had made very careful inquiries into the subject, and he could find no justification for the statement that facilities had been given to Moderate candidates to hold meetings on the company's premises. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that he quite understood his feelings, but the London and North Western Railway Company considered themselves as carriers of persons and goods, and the last thing they thought of was to interfere in political matters. He could not say anything of his own personal knowledge as to the question of candidature, but he was perfectly certain that both Parties would be treated alike, though speaking for himself he would not care to address a meeting in Euston station for fear of the windows. Their great idea was to keep absolutely clear of politics. He had made careful inquiry and he could not find that the statement of the hon. Member opposite was justified. He attended the Board meetings, and no such statement was 369 made before him at any rate, and he thought the hon. Member was mistaken. But he would be very glad to receive further information from him, and to go into the question with him.
§ * SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)
said he happened to represent the division in which Euston Station was situated. He had fought five County Council elections and two Parliamentary elections in the constituency, and he had been informed that the attitude taken up by the London and North-Western Railway Company when applied to for the use of their station premises was uniformly that they would not favour or allow facilities to either Party. Therefore it was with profound regret that he heard that that principle of neutrality had been departed from in the case of the recent County Council election. He thanked the hon. Member for the Elland Division for bringing the subject to the notice of the House, but he quite accepted the very honourable manner in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite had endeavoured
§ so far as possible to make up for the breach of principle which occurred on that occasion. Having accepted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and having heard the assurance on behalf of the Government as to future legislation, he desired to offer no further opposition to the Bill now before the House.
§ * MR. VERNEY (Buckinghamshire, N.)
said that in the town of Wolverton there were thousands of employees of the London and North-Western Railway Company, and he desired to say that it was absolutely untrue, as far as that town was concerned, that the railway company had brought the slightest political influence to bear on their servants; moreover he believed that any attempt of the kind would be keenly resented by the men themselves.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 209; Noes, 62. (Division List No. 144.)371
|Acland-Hood,RtHnSir Alex.F.||Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Evans, Samuel T.|
|Agnew, George William||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch||Byles, William Pollard||Faber, G. H. (Boston)|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Carlile, E. Hildred||Ferens, T. R.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Findlay, Alexander|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Causton,RtHnRichard Knight||Forster, Henry William|
|Astbury, John Meir||Cave, George||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Cavendish,Rt.Hn. Victor C.W.||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.||Chance, Frederick William||Glendinning, R. G.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Clark,George Smith(Belfast,N.)||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Clarke, C. Goddard (Peckham)||Hamilton, Marquess of|
|Baring, Godfrey(Isle ofWight)||Clough, William||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham||Hart-Davies, T.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Collins,SirWm. J. (S. Pancras, W.||Harwood, George|
|Beach,Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Corbett,A.Cameron (Glasgow)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Beale, W. P.||Corbett,C.H.(Sussex.E.Grints'd||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Beauchamp, E.||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Bell, Richard||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Cowan, W. H.||Henderson,J.M.(Abe deen, W.)|
|Benn,SirJ. Williams(Devonp'rt)||Cox, Harold||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)|
|Benn,W.(T'w'r Hamlets,S.Geo.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Bennett, E. N.||Crean, Eugene||Hobart, Sir Robert|
|Bertram, Julius||Crosfield, A. H.||Horridge, Thomas Gardner|
|Bethell,SirJH (Essex.Romford||Crossley, William J.||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Dalmeny, Lord||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Hyde, Clarendon|
|Billson, Alfred||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Bowles, G. Stewart.||Dillon, John||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Duckworth, James||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Brigg, John||Duncan, Robt. (Lanark, Govan||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Jones,William (Carnarvonshire|
|Brunner, J.F.L. (Lanes.,Leigh)||Emmott, Alfred||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Brunner,RtHnSirJT (Cheshire)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.|
|Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Seaverns, J. H.|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Nuttall, Harry||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Kitson, Rt. Hon. Sir James||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Laidlaw, Robert||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Lambert, George||O'Kelly,James(Roscommon,N.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Lamont, Norman||O'Malley, William||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Perks, Robert William||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Leese,Sir Joseph F.(Accrington)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford,East)|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Pollard, Dr.||Smith,F.E.(Liverpool, Walton;|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Power, Patrick Joseph||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh,Central)||Stanley,Hn.A Lyulph(Chesh.)|
|Lundon, W.||Radford, G. H.||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Lupton, Arnold||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Raphael, Herbert H.||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Macdonald,J.M. (Falkirk B'ghs||Rawlinson,John FrederickPeel||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|M'Callum, John M.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Taylor, Theodore C.(Radcliffe)|
|M'Crae, George||Rea, Walter Russell (Searboro'||Thomas,Sir A.(Glamorgan, E.)|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Thomasson, Franklin|
|M'Kean, John||Rees, J. D.||Toulmin, George|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rickett, J. Compton||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Verney, F. W.|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Vivian, Henry|
|Maddison, Frederick||Roberts,S.(Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Waring, Walter|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Robinson, S.||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Marks, G.Croydon (Launceston)||Rose, Charles Day||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Whitley, John Henry(Halifax)|
|Mond, A.||Rowlands, J.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Morrell, Philip||Runciman, Walter||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Murnaghan, George||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Young, Samuel|
|Murray, James||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||Younger, George|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Nicholls, George||Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Nicholson,Charles NT.(Doncast'r||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Nolan, Joseph||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|Abraham, William (Cork,N.E.)||Hall, Frederick||O'Shee, James John|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Halpin, J.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Harvey, W.E.(Derbyshire,N.E.||Reddy, M.|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Boland, John||Hazleton, Richard||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bowerman, C W.||Hogan, Michael||Scott,A.H.(Ashton under Lyne|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Hudson, Walter||Summerbell, T.|
|Cooper, G. J.||Jackson, R. S.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Walsh, Stephen|
|Delany, William||Joyce, Michael||Ward,John(Stoke upon Trent)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Kelley, George D.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Duffy, William J.||Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in (Furness||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down,S.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Essex, R. W.||MacVeigh, Charles(Donegal, E.||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Meagher, Michael||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras,S.)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Murphy, John||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Donnell. T. (Kerry, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Fullerton. Hugh||O'Hare, Patrick||Mr. H. C. Lea and Mr. Thorne.|
|Gill A. H.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
Bill read a second time, and committed.