§ Order for the Second Reading read.
§ MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)
said he thought that the Second Reading of a Bill of this kind should extract some explanation from a member of the Government. The Bill was introduced last week and it was a measure which, although part of it was agreed, contained clauses of a very controversial character. The Bill was described by the Prime Minister on the day of the "massacre of the innocents" as an important and useful Bill, which unless it was agreed to the Government could not attempt to carry through this session. The Bill gave the Home Secretary authority over the cabs of London and enabled him to settle fares and matters of that sort. He thought that these useful provisions of the Bill would not meet with opposition in this House, but he was sorry to see incorporated in the Bill the question of the abolition of "privilege" cabs, which was a matter of considerable controversy and one that was unlikely to be arranged as if in an agreed Bill. He thought that the arrangement come to under the privilege system was in the interests of the travelling public. If the "privilege" cab system were abolished it would be a great difficulty to obtain cabs at all railway stations at all times and in all weathers. It might be possible to obtain cabs at certain stations at certain times, but those who travelled by special trains and arrived in the early hours of the morning or late at night would find a great difficulty in obtaining conveyances to carry them to their homes. If the railway companies were not allowed to make contracts for the supply of carriages at the stations Continental passengers would arrive perhaps by night or in the evening and experience great inconvenience in having to wait while cabs were being sent for, while those who would arrive in the early hours of the morning, possibly after a disagreeable crossing of the 204 Channel, would not thank the Government if they found that in consequence of the abolition of the privilege cab system, which had hitherto worked well, they had to spend some considerable-time in the morning waiting at the station before they could get to their destinations. He knew that it had been stated that the "privilege" cab system was desired by directors only for the financial advantage of railway companies. He disputed this, and he had had experience of a railway company which had actually tried to do without the "privilege" cab system. The South Eastern Railway Company did away with the "privilege" system between 1883 and 1887, and had to return to it because of the great inconvenience that was caused to passengers. In 1899 a Select Committee sat in the House of Commons for the purpose of considering a Bill for the amalgamation of that line and the Chatham line. In the evidence given at that time the general manager of the South Eastern Company stated that the reason why the company had to give up the open system—the system which the right hon. Gentleman wished to impose for the future—was that they could not get cabs when they were wanted for the morning express which came in at three o'clock. This applied to London Bridge, Charing Cross, and Cannon Street. The company found that cabs went off to theatres and elsewhere and did not return to the railway stations, and after three years trial they had to give up the "open" system and return to the system of contracting with certain cab proprietors to supply their stations. The general manager, on being asked, said the difficulty which the company found was not only to get the cabmen under the "open" system to be at the railway stations at times when they were wanted, but they had to adequate power of controlling the cabmen. Among the clauses of the Bill he was sorry to see that it was proposed that practically the business of the railway company, so far as the station yards were concerned, was to be taken out of the hands of the railway company. If the management of the cabs which plied at the station was taken out of the hands of the company there would be a breakdown and a large 205 number of the people who travelled on the railway would be put to great inconvenience. Subsection 3 of the Bill practically turned the station yard of the railway company into a public street. This clause took out of the hands of the railway company the power of regulating and managing the cabs on their own property.
§ MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS
said he would hear later how the right hon. Gentleman explained this paragraph in the Bill. It seemed to him that if the Bill passed in its present form the Government would take away from the railway companies the power or directing an important branch of their traffic. Another difficulty was that if the power of supplying cabs was taken away from the railway company there would be no means of ensuring that the cabs supplied in the station were of a proper quality. There was a danger, he thought, that they might get cabs which were not in a good condition, and that cabs which had not got decent horses would very largely congregate in the stations, and they would have no power whatever over the class of cabs which were to be admitted. He wanted to point out, also, to the right hon. Gentleman that he must not in any way think that the Bill, including as it did this Clause 2, could be treated as a non-controversial measure. The first part of the Bill he had no objection to; he thought it was necessary that the Home Secretary should have power to deal with the matters included in that part of the Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman must not consider that the Bill could be treated as an agreed measure. Whether or not they agreed to take the Second Reading that night the Home Secretary must not be surprised if there were a considerable number of Amendments moved when the Bill reached a later stage. He regretted that the Government had thought it necessary to introduce, at this very late period of the session, when they were working largely in the small hours of the night a Bill of that character, which was certainly contro- 206 versial, and he trusted that even no the Home Secretary might think it desirable to lighten his Bill and to agree to take only those portions of it which were non-contentious and which he could do with the full consent of both sides of the House. But if he insisted on the inclusion of the privileged cab question in the Bill, he could not be surprised if a matter which for many years past had been the subject of great controversy gave him a great deal of trouble
§ * MR. GLADSTONE
said he did not complain of any of the criticisms of his right hon. friend opposite. But before he dealt with the particular question of privilege, might he remind the House that the other part of the Bill was designed to meet a public want, to allow the cab-drivers to put a taximeter on their cabs if they desired? There was no power in the Bill to force a taximeter, as to time and distance, on the horse-cabs. All that they did was to take power so that cab-owners and drivers could have them if they wanted them. At this late hour he did not know if it was necessary for him to go into the history of this complicated matter. His right hon. friend had, not unfairly, criticised them for putting this privilege question into the Bill, which was expected to be of a non-controversial character. He could assure the House that it was from no desire whatever to provoke conflict or disagreement that the Government put the clause into the Bill. Let him remind the House how the matter stood. There were in London about from 1,600 to 1,700 privileged cabs. There were about from 11,000 to 12,000 licensed drivers who were not privileged. Now the privileged men, by virtue of the privilege, were no doubt in one of the best and most lucrative parts of the business of cab driving in London, and, as the House knew, horse cab-drivers generally were now suffering severely from the competition with motor cabs. He was sure that hon. Members, whatever they' might think of privileged cabs in the abstract or the concrete, would agree that they were ready to do all that reasonable men could be expected to do to lighten the difficulties against, which the general body of drivers were 207 [...]iving. It was with the view, as he maintained, of giving the House an opportunity to do justice to these men, that they had put this clause into the Bill, to provide practically for the abolition, or he would prefer to call it suspension, of the privileged system. This had been a standing grievance for the last fifteen years. They were all agreed—cabmen as well as Members of the House and the public—that the travelling public should be well served at the railway stations. About that they all agreed. If it could be proved that the abolition of the privileged system would put the travelling public to serious inconvenience they would agree that the present system ought to be continued without tampering with it. His right hon. friend had alluded to the Committee of 1889. It was, he believed, a Private Bill Committee. But he would remind the House that subsequent to that two Committees had inquired into this particular question. First, in 1895, there was a Departmental Committee, and the second, last year, was a Select Committee of the House of Commons. These Committees had both found in favour of the Abolition of the privilege system, and the Committee of last year, of which he saw some hon. Members present who were members, found unanimously in favour of its abolition. His right hon. friend complained that suddenly the Government put this clause into this Bill. He would explain how that happened. He had endeavoured to settle this question by agreement; many months ago he approached all the railway companies and negotiated with them. They had negotiations with each separate company, and he was in great hopes that they would arrive at a friendly solution, because, with the exception of one or two companies, he found that there was a general disposition to come to terms on the basis of an experimental abolition of the privilege system. But hon. Members knew that what was essential to a practical and a satisfactory experiment in this direction was that all the companies should be brought into the plan or scheme or whatever it was. His right hon. friend had instanced the case of the South Eastern Railway. That company, he said, made an experiment and came to the conclusion that it was unsatisfac- 208 tory He (Mr. Gladstone) had never heard any member of the general public say he had found that there was any difference in the supply of cabs during that experiment. His right hon. friend was, of course, naturally in a position to know that better than he would be. Speaking as a user of the South Eastern Railway, he never knew that there was any special inconvenience in getting cabs at that spot. But it was an isolated experiment, and even admitting it did not prove satisfactory to the company he maintained that it could not be taken to disprove the success of more extended experiments to which all companies should be parties. What did the Government ask? They asked in this Bill that all companies should admit all licensed cabs to their stations. His right hon. friend said that they proposed to take away the power of the companies—or to abstain from giving to the companies—the power of making regulations for the purpose of controlling the cabs in their stations. They did nothing of the sort. They did not intend to interfere with the power of the companies in their own station yards. All they said was, that the companies must let in all cabs. When the cabs came in, then they were subject to the regulations which the companies might make. They would come in precisely as they did now under the regulations which the companies now made, but with one exception, and that was in regard to the fee which was charged on admission. There was a provision that the fee charged on the cabs for admission had to be approved by the Home Secretary. But, apart from that, the railway companies would continue, under this Bill, to regulate the admission of cabs and the order and discipline of the drivers of the cabs, as now. They would continue to provide water for the horses, and would be able to charge, as the London and South Western Railway now charged at Waterloo, and to recoup themselves for all expenses in that direction. Surely there was no great hardship in asking the companies to make this experiment? All that the men asked for, and all that the Government asked for, was that this experiment should be tried for a period. He had it in black and white from the representatives of the cabmen themselves that all they want is a fair trial of the 209 open system. And they undertook to acquiesce in a reversion to the privilege system if it was found, after reasonable experiment, that the open system produced inconvenience to the travelling public. Could anything be fairer than that? He would also say that, although he agreed that there was no limitation in the Bill, yet they proposed only to apply this system to the terminal stations. At this moment he was not quite sure whether they would apply it to Waterloo and one or two other stations. But, speaking generally, they only proposed to apply it to the terminal stations, not to suburban stations, because the cabmen themselves quite realised that there was a special difficulty with regard to these suburban stations. Cabs naturally were not in the neighbourhood of the stations. They would not be ever put there unless there was some special arrangement with the companies, and it would be necessary in regard to these stations to maintain the present system. His hon. friend the Member for the City of London said quite truly that this was not in the Bill. But, so far as this Bill extended, the Secretary of State had power to suspend the operation of this subsection in respect of any particular station, and it was proposed to exercise that power freely in regard to those stations where, as they all admitted, there was a special difficulty, and where the travelling public would be incommoded if they abolished the privilege system. If that was not clear, they were quite prepared to make it so. They had considered the alternative plan of putting in the schedule of the Hill the stations to be so exempted but they thought it would be convenient and more elastic to reserve power to exempt stations which clearly ought to be exempted. He could assure the House that it was only proposed to extend the Bill to terminal stations in London, though there might be an exception or two such as Waterloo Station. He hoped under those circumstances the House would consent to give this experiment a fair trial There was no wish on the part of the Government to come into conflict with the railway companies, or to interfere with their stations or with their rights in their, stations in any way, but the Government held that, after all, these licensed 210 drivers were the licensed drivers of the Metropolis, and to him it did not seem either right or fitting when railway companies existed to serve the public that they should take advantage of the system of London cabs and cabmen and make their own arbitrary selection. It seemed to him that the companies were taking advantage of a system which did not belong to the companies, but which did belong to the Metropolitan public, and it was a system which, although he agreed it had worked well for the travelling public, yet it imposed a hardship on the drivers, and in view of the heavy competition which they had to face, it was incumbent upon the Government to do what they could to help them to a fairer system. By the provisions of this Bill every security was taken that the public should not be incommoded. If he were wrong in that view and the public were incommoded, then it would be an extremely simple matter to revert to the privilege system which now prevailed.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the railway companies had only one object in view, and that was to ensure a sufficient supply of cabs at all times to meet requirements and that the cabs should be decent and have decent horses. He could claim to speak on this matter because he happened to be one of the few Members of the House who constituted the horse committee of the Great Northern Railway, and it was his duty to go round the stations of that railway to see the sort of cabs that were in attendance. It was a most important question not only from the point of view of the public, but from the view of the railway companies and passengers, who did not wish to be delayed with a bad horse. If this Bill passed, any bad cab or bad horse could go into a station and could not be removed. Under the present system he merely told the traffic manager to intimate to the man with whom he contracted to send a better horse or better cab, as the case might be. Then there was the question of the number of cabs at the different stations. The right hon. Gentleman said that in order to make a success of his scheme probably he would have 211 to apply it to all the stations of London, He ventured to say, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that that showed he had not the remotest knowledge of the question. The conditions of the stations were different. He believed it was possible that if the Bill became law there might be a sufficient supply of cabs in certain stations, such as Charing Cross—although the experiment carried out by the right hon. Gentleman below him did not prove that—possibly Waterloo, and possibly Victoria. He said that for the reason, which everyone knew, that cabs congregated in Piccadilly, Park Lane, and round about the centre of London. When close to a station they would no doubt go into it, but they would not go to St. Pancras, Paddington, or King's Cross, or into the City unless there was a fare to take there. No cabman would go outside the centre if he could avoid it. He had himself experienced great difficulty, and he was sure other Members must have found it so in similar circumstances, to get taken from Belgrave Square into the City, because the cabman could not get a fare back. Over and over again he had been refused, and one did not want to have a row. He happened to be living some years on the route of the Great Western Railway, which admitted cabs of strangers into Paddington Station when necessary, but if he got into a strange cab and told the driver to take him to the City he was almost invariably refused. In the case of a privileged cab, all that one had to do in such a case was to summon the station inspector, who would at once compel the man to drive the fare to the place to which he wanted to go. If it was an outside cab, however, the station inspector had no authority over the driver.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. JOHN BURNS,) Battersea
The policeman has.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said that meant going to a police court, and who was going to take that trouble? At the present time the inspector at the station merely said, "You must go," and the driver went. He was on the Committee to which his right hon. friend alluded, and this very question came up. A cabman 212 who was in favour of the abolition of the privilege system came before the Committee, and he said to the witness, "Have you ever been in the Great Western Railway station?" The reply was "Yes." He then related to the cabman what he had just related to the House, and asked him whether it was true. The witness replied, "Oh, yes; it is quite true. What I do is to drive out of the station, and when I get out of the station I tell the people to get out of the cab." These were some of the reasons why the railway companies were desirous of keeping a certain amount of control of the cabs in their own hands. The other system had been adopted at Waterloo fifteen or sixteen years ago, and he challenged any hon. Member who was in the habit of going to Waterloo to deny the statement that the worst cabs in London congregated at Waterloo. [Cries of "No."] He did not know whether hon. Members who denied that had been in the habit of going to Waterloo, but he himself had been in the habit of visiting Waterloo to see what sort of cabs were there, and he ventured to assert without fear of contradiction the truth of his statement. He would go with any hon. Member any day this week to Waterloo and to Paddington, and he was quite certain he would convince him of the difference in the quality of the cabs at the two stations. [An HON. MEMBER: The Great Northern is the worst.] He would go to that station if the hon. Member liked. He entirely disagreed with the hon. Member that the Great Northern cabs were the worst. Perhaps the hon. Member saw a bad one, for they admitted outside cabs if they had not sufficient of their own in the station. It was evident that the result of the experiment in this Bill must be a failure to get cabs at those stations which were outside the area of London where cabs mostly congregated. There could be no question about that, and the only argument the right hon. Gentleman had brought forward was that the cabmen who were not privileged desired the system to be abolished. He had nothing to say against cabmen, who were a very worthy class of men, but he did not think the interests of the public ought to be sacrificed in the suppositious interest of one class of men. No doubt what 213 appealed to the cabman was that if he happened to be near a station he would like to go into the station. But the cabman would not go to an outside station of his own accord to get a fare, and for that reason the railway companies held that it would be quite impossible to apply this rule to all stations. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had met them so far as regarded the suburban part of London, but his Bill said the police area, which extended to Clapham and that sort of place. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he was aware, as he was informed was the case, that the hon. Member for Sheffield, who was a director of the Great Central Railway, had an undertaking from the Board of Trade that no Bill of this sort should be brought in unless sent to a Select Committee.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said that was another point. The railway companies were more or less under the control of the Board of Trade, and why should they be put under the control of another Department? Surely it was quite sufficient to put the railway companies under the control of one Department.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he did so for the very good reason that if they were going to regulate one particular business, they had better do so by one set of men. The Board of Trade were conversant with the railway companies and their needs, as well as their methods of business, and I he ventured to say the Home Office knew nothing whatever about them. For that reason, he thought the Board of Trade was the proper body; but supposing he was wrong, it did not alter his contention that a pledge had been given by the Government to the Great Central Railway Company that this Bill should not be introduced unless it was sent to a Select Committee. He did not think the Government could get out of that pledge by merely saying that the Board of Trade gave it.
§ * MR. GLADSTONE
said he did not 214 want to get out of any obligation, but as this Bill came out of a Select Committee, he did not see why it should be sent to a Select Committee.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said his contention was that this pledge was given, and if so, it ought to be adhered to. The only other remark which he had to make was this. It was a little hard that in this matter in which they thought that great inconvenience would be incurred by the railway company and be caused to the public—that in a purely commercial undertaking of this sort, the Home Office should interfere. At a time when railway companies were in a extremely depressed condition, the Home Office was to come in and instruct them how to manage their business. He urged that there must result a great inconvenience to the travelling public and a loss to the railway companies. He had only one other remark to make, and that was with regard to Clause 3. This had nothing to do with the railway companies. It provided that coaches running out of London should have a foot-plate upon them. There used to be a considerable amount of interest taken in coaching; but this provision was a way to kill coaching altogether, by putting a badge on the driver and a plate on the coach at the; rear. It was quite unnecessary. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not kill four-in-hand driving.
§ SIR SAMUEL SCOTT
said in the speech to which they had first listened the last remark was the only part with which he agreed. The right hon. Member for the City of London had mentioned an instance in which he could not get a cab to go from Paddington to the City at ten o'clock in the morning. The reason was that the cabman unless driving a "privilege" cab, knew that it was extremely unlikely that he would get a "fare" back from the city to Paddington at that hour in the morning, but if he were a "privilege" cabman he knew perfectly well that he could go to Liverpool Street and get a fare back. Another matter which the right hon. Baronet had mentioned was that a promise had been given that a Bill of that sort should be sent to a Select Committee. He would remind him that the clause which 215 dealt, with "privilege" cabs was entirely based on the recommendation of a Select Committee which sat last year. That select committee had several sittings and a very large amount of evidence was taken both from the cabmen and also on behalf of the railway companies; and the Committee unanimously agreed, without any exception, that it was desirable to abolish the "privilege" system. The cabmen who gave evidence fully realised the position in which the railway companies were placed. They acknowledged that the railway companies were bound to supply the public with conveyances at their stations, and they agreed that if it was found that the obligations of the railway companies to the public could not be fulfilled after the privilege system had been abolished, they would not object to the railway companies reverting to the "privilege" system. The Select Committee's recommendation was that the abolition of the "privilege" system should be tried for one year. The right hon. Gentleman had carried out this recommendation in his Bill, and if the railway companies could prove that sufficient cabs were not available after the "privilege" system was abolished, the companies might revert to that system. Another matter which the cabmen most fully realised was that in the event of the "privilege" system being discontinued and sufficient cabs for railways not being available, the railway companies could provide their own cabs for their passengers' convenience which would affect the cab industry to a very large extent—an industry which already was in a somewhat tottering condition. Then the hon. Baronet had alluded to the power which he said the right hon. Gentleman had taken under the Bill—that of entirely taking away from railway companies the control of their yards. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman had said that this was not the case. He (Sir Samuel Scott) hoped it was not. This was one of the strong recommendations that the Select Committee had made, that it was extremely desirable that the station yard should be under the control of the railway company. He earnestly hoped that his hon. friends on that side of the House would pass the measure. It was very much required in London. 216 He ventured, with all due deference to the great knowledge of the Member for the City of London, to say that he thought he knew as much about the needs of the people of London as the hon. Baronet.
§ * MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said he still believed, in spite of what had been said, that the cabman existed for the public and not the public for the cabman. He thought that the system, which had been in force for nearly seventy years and had worked well, providing cabs at all hours for railway passengers, had a great deal of good in it. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, who had in this matter endeavoured to meet the cabmen as well as the public, to consider whether the balance of evidence was not in favour of the public rather than of the cabmen. He did not know why cabmen should be protected in the manner suggested against the public interest, and he urged that travellers who were in the habit of arriving at a station like Euston, at four o'clock or five o'clock in the morning, would be put to the greatest inconvenience if the so called "privilege" system were abolished. The privilege was a privilege of the public, and not of any particular class, trade or interest. Respecting the abolition of the "privilege" system he could only emphasise what had already been said that it would be very hard to retrace their steps and to revert to the "privilege" cab system if once it was given up, though the Home Secretary, with his habitual consideration, had provided for tentative action, and for reversion, if necessary, to the existing conditions in this behalf. It was absurd to argue that the railway companies took up the line they did because of the small sums received on account of the "privilege" cabs which stood in the stations. No one could seriously argue that. For instance, the Great Western Company received something under £2000 a year from the "privilege" cabs at Paddington. This sum was a mere bagatelle to that company. Whether or not a pledge was given with regard to this Bill's going to a Select Committee, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether there was any objection to its going to a Select Committee instead 217 of to a Standing Committee, or to a Committee of the Whole House. He had not had the advantage possessed by several hon. Members who had spoken of sitting on the Select Committee which reported last year, but he felt sure that the abolition of a system, which did no one any harm, and ensured a cab at the station at any hour of any day or night, would be regretted.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
desired to interpose for a moment for the purpose of welcoming the Bill, first and foremost because it set to rest a very vexed question among the cabmen of London. There had been a difference of opinion among persons of high legal authority with regard to the legality of motor taximeter cabs, which were plying on the streets of London at the present time. He was sure there had been only an apparent difference of opinion, and that the right hon. Gentleman and those who were acting with him had come to the opinion that taximeter cabs needed to have their position in the streets of London regularised. Inasmuch as this Bill regularised their existence on the streets of the metropolis, he welcomed it, because it would go towards settling a vexed question which undoubtedly prevailed among the cabmen. The only matter to which he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman was this. The senior Member for the City of London had referred to Section 3 as interfering with the old practice of coaching. This section did not so much interfere with the old practice of coaching as it would undoubtedly interfere with a new practice which had come into operation. The Secretary of State might, according to this section, by general or special order, apply to stage carriages which should have come from some town or place beyond London, or to any owners of stage carriages, any provision of the Acts referring to stage carriages in London. That might work out to be a very vexatious action in the future. It did not at all apply to the old and dying stage coaches in London. They were not at all inconvenient to the travelling public of London. They were not offensive to the travelling public of London. But it might interfere with the motor omnibus 218 traffic from neighbouring towns into London. They knew that very strict regulations were made in regard to the motor omnibus traffic to London; they knew that the police regulations of Scotland Yard were very severe—and he said, very properly severe. He admitted that to allow the motor omnibus traffic of London to be conducted upon the loose manner in which it had been conducted at the beginning in its experimental stages, would not be at all convenient to the people of London. The noise which they created ought to be checked. The rules, regulations, and instructions of Scotland Yard were right and pro per so far, but if those regulations were to be applied to the motor omnibus traffic that might come from outside towns into London, it might become inconvenient to the travelling public, and it might become impossible for such companies to establish such traffic.
§ * MR. GLADSTONE
said perhaps he might be allowed to explain that this clause was designed to meet what possibly might happen if any broken-down motor bus might come into London from outside, and run about London without the restrictions and the regulations of the police authority. They had heard of certain plans for buying up derelict motor buses and running them into London from outside. That would not be allowed.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
said he was glad to have the explanation. If such a thing occurred it would be a very serious thing no doubt, but what he would suggest was that the Committee should guard against any vexatious regulations that would prevent companies in the suburban districts, and beyond the public regulations of London, from establishing such services as would be quite adequate to the needs of the people outside, but which at the same time might be prevented from their operations by any such vexatious conditions. He held no brief for companies of that kind; these evils must be checked, but all regard should be had to the nature of the case for persons plying for hire on the country roads and towns where there was not the necessity for putting severe regulations into operation. He trusted, therefore, that when the rules 219 and regulations came to be made under the Bill no such vexatious provisions would appear in them. The right hon. Gentleman knew quite well that his recent regulations in regard to the taximeter cab were ultra vires, and he thought this Bill fairly admitted in the first clause that those regulations were not quite consistent with the law. He sincerely hoped that when he came to make these regulations there would not be words inserted which would put out of operation any companies which might be started for the purpose of accommodating people outside the City of London.
§ MR. LAMBTON
said he acted as Chairman of the Committee which reported on this subject last year. In answer to his hon. friend the Member for the City of London, he might say that the Committee took most careful evidence from several sources, not only from the cabmen, but from all interests, from the railway company and from the police. But the evidence of the cabmen, the railways, and the police all showed them that the universal opinion was that the privilege system should be abolished. He hoped the Bill would go to a Second Reading without a division, as the Report of the Committee was embodied in it.
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
said he entirely concurred with his hon. friend in hoping that the Bill would go to a Second Reading without a division. But he would like to make an appeal that it should be sent to a Committee upstairs. The right hon. Gentleman had said it had gone through a Select Committee. That was not, strictly speaking, so. This Bill purported to carry out the recommendations of a Select Committee, but it had never been before a Select Committee, and only part of it had been before a Select Committee at all. It seemed to him, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider it, that it was exactly the kind of Bill which really could only be properly and adequately dealt with, especially at that time of the session, by a Committee upstairs. The Bill gave the right hon. Gentleman very large powers to deal with evils which they all admitted. The evils were great. The whole point was how the right hon. Gentleman was 220 going to deal with them. It seemed to him that it was exactly the kind of Bill which really ought to be considered, in the interests of everybody, otherwise than in the small hours of the morning.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
said he wished to enter a word of protest against the third sub-section of the second clause of the Bill. The speech of the Home Secretary was remarkable for one thing, and that was the Government's adhesion to the scheme to abolish the privileged cab system. The speech was full of apologies, but very little evidence whatever was adduced in pressing this view on the House. He thought that was sufficiently shown by the fact that it was impossible to put this particular clause into operation before a year or two's time. This third sub-section was designed to allow the Home Secretary to repeal the Act which they were asked to pass in the next few days. They asked the House to pass a Bill dealing with taximeters, and in the same Bill the Home Secretary reserved to his Department the right to repeal any part or the whole of the terms of the Statute. No doubt there were certain occasions in which a course of that kind was convenient. It appeared to be one of the rules of the present Secretary of State, and the most recent example was to be found in the Eight Hours' Bill, recently introduced, to take the right to suspend the operation of the Act. It was a sign of the absolute lack of confidence he had in his own measures, and he thought it ought to be a matter of protest in the House that when a Minister of State, occupying the high position of Home Secretary, brought in a Bill, he should make a practice of inserting in that very Bill a condition under which he should have liberty to override it.
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
Whereupon, Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 26th day of July last, adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned at twenty-six minutes after One o'clock.