HC Deb 21 July 1908 vol 192 cc1852-8

Order for Third Reading read.

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


said that in moving the rejection of this Bill he might at once state that he objected only to Clause 13. It was perhaps rather an unusual course to take to move the rejection because of one clause of a Bill, but the London County Council had also taken an unusual course in this matter. In 1900 the United Tramways Company brought in a Bill asking powers to construct an electric tramway from Fulham to Putney, but stated; that they were only able to do so by means of the overhead trolley system. The Fulham borough objected to that, and the Bill that was brought in for that purpose was not proceeded with. In the following year the London County Council entered into negotiations with the Fulham Borough and promised, under certain conditions, to bring in a Bill asking powers to construct a line on the same route as that proposed by the London United Tramways the year before. They pointed out that if they constructed it on the conduit system a great deal of street-widening and improvement would be necessary, and that they were prepared to construct a conduit system if the Fulham Borough contributed one-third of the cost of the street improvements to the extent of not more than £30,000. The Fulham Borough agreed to pay their contribution, and in 1902 a Bill was introduced embodying those conditions. The improvements were to be carried out within four years and the tramway constructed in seven. The improvements were completed, and the £30,000 paid, and now the London County Council, in order to get away from the agreement they had made with the Fulham Borough, had put this clause in the Tramway and Improvements Bill of this year in order to avoid their responsibility and the expense of laying down a conduit system. Various public meetings in Fulham had without exception condemned the action of the London County Council in bringing this matter before Parliament in the shape they had, and under these circumstances he asked that the Third Reading should be rejected.

*MR. B. S. STRAUS (Tower Hamlets, Mile End)

seconded the Motion. He considered the action of the new County Council in breaking the agreement which their predecessors had entered into with the old Fulham Borough Council, was most undesirable. The arrangement as he understood it was that the Fulham Borough were to pay £30,000 towards the street improvements, and the London County Council were to construct a conduit system of tramways. The £30,000 was subscribed by the Fulham ratepayers on that understanding, but the new borough council had agreed with the new London County Council that there should be an overhead system on this route, in return for which they were to get a certain amount of wood pavement—a bargain of no real value, because the wood pavement would have to be put down by the London County Council in any event. This was not the only case in which the London County Council had shown their incapacity for managing tramways, and he was very glad to see that they had already received a snub from the Board of Trade, who had only given them a provisional certificate for the stud system in Mile End, where it had proved a most miserable failure. It was an experiment that never ought to have been made in such an important thoroughfare, and proved the incapacity of the present majority of the Council to safeguard the interests of the ratepayers.

In reply to a point of order raised by Mr. GUINNESS,


ruled that to raise the question of the stud system was not in order.


said he bowed, of course, to the ruling, but had only used this as an argument to prove the want of forethought of the present London County Council. He congratulated the Board of Trade on being so cautious. He was not desirous of interfering with the development of tramways in London. They were of the utmost importance for people getting cheaply to and from their work, but the House ought to consider with some care a proposal to make an alteration in the system which it agreed a few years ago the County Council should lay down. It was quite true there had not been the necessary formal opposition in another place, but that did not prevent hon. Members emphatically protesting against the absolute incapacity of the new majority to carry out the work in a fit and proper way. They did not desire to interfere in any way with the general principle of the Bill; their objection only referred to the possibility of establishing the overhead system. One of the first principles of commercial morality was that an agreement properly made should be kept. The London County Council some years back made this agreement, and they had not adhered to it. He feared they might put down a system which would be not only a failure, but a detriment to the rateable value of the district through which it ran, and he thought the House should only pass the Bill on the clear understanding that this section would not be enforced. He appealed to county councillors who happened to be Members to remember that they owed a very serious responsibility to the ratepayers of London with regard to the system of tramways, and he hoped and trusted that the House would emphatically lay down that the conduit system, which was the most efficient and economical, should be the system in London. He firmly believed the day was not far distant when the ratepayers would rise against these continual experiments in tramway running. They were satisfied with the present system which was laid down in the majority of the streets, and he hoped the painful experience in his own constituency would be taken to heart, and that they would not run the risk of repeating it.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'"—(Mr. Timothy Davies.)

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

*MR. GUINNESS (Bury St. Edmunds)

said the hon. Member for Mile End had treated the House to a disquisition on the surface-contact system of electric traction, apparently being afraid that it was to be brought into Fulham. The system was tried, as an experiment, from Aldgate to Bow Bridge, because the Stepney Borough Council would not consent to the overhead system and owing to the Bow and Whitechapel Railway running just under the roadway the conduit system was impossible except at very great expense. The clause to which the hon. Member objected only enabled the County Council for the purpose of tramway No. 5 to adopt such a system of overhead electric traction as the Board of Trade might sanction. He did not think it could possibly be extended to cover the surface-contact system, and he hoped the House would not agree to the postponement of the Third Reading of the Bill. It was important to remember that this tramway was only part of a large system, and would supply a link between Hammersmith Broadway in the north and Putney in the south. It would enable the inhabitants of Fulham to go northwards to Harlesden, and thus connect them with three lines running east and west along the Harrow, Goldhawk, and Uxbridge Roads. These four lines were on the overhead system, and it would obviously cause a great inconvenience if in this case they were to have the conduit system joining them up. The County Council was accused of a breach of contract. The tramway was authorised on the conduit system in 1902, but since then the County Council had come to an agreement with the three borough councils involved who had waived their objection to the overhead system in return for certain concessions, the chief of which was the laying down of wood paving instead of granite setts between the tramways. The hon. Member for Mile End had complained that the borough council of Fulham was to be compelled to contribute an unusual amount. He believed one-third was the usual amount contributed, and, considering the benefit which would be derived, he thought it was the least they could pay in return for the improvement, which their deputy town clerk had stated was very necessary. If it was not allowed it would inflict a great hardship on the county in general, and on Fulham in particular. The hon. Member for Fulham, in his evidence before the Committee in 1902, said the population had grown from 40,000 to 140,000 in twenty years and therefore the tramway was necessary, and he also showed that there was no danger of property being deteriorated, because the greater part of the property in Fulham Palace Road was only of a rateable value of from £35 to £60. The borough would be benefited no less by having the overhead system, because after all they were not going to have posts in the middle of the road but only at the side, and there would be no obstruction to traffic. The hon. Member also said there had been a great many meetings held and in every case it had been resolved to oppose the Bill. He had apparently forgotten the meetings of the borough council, and if they were satisfied that was all the House of Commons need ask. The previous borough council certainly came to a different decision, but since then the electors had had their voice in the matter. It was quite unreasonable to expect the House to listen to the complaint of a few ratepayers. If the ratepayers were dissatisfied they could easily induce those who had the frontage to oppose the Bill in Committee. It was very unsuitable to raise this matter on the Third Reading. If the Motion was agreed to it would put off this and other very necessary improvements for an indefinite period. He hoped the House would not assent to the Motion and postpone the building of tramways urgently needed in the interests of the traffic of London.

MR. WATERLOW (Islington, N.),

as one of the members of the Highways Committee of the County Council responsible for the Bill, was sorry to say he must support the last speaker in opposition to the Member for Fulham. He asked the House to pass the Bill, because it included a large number of other tramway improvements in London which would be wrecked for twelve months if the hon. Member's proposition was complied with. There were two issues in the matter. There was the question of the bargain which was agreed to with Fulham, and the question of the overhead and the conduit systems on its merits. With reference to the bargain, it was made with the borough council. The original Bill of 1902 was an agreed Bill with the borough council, and the bargain was one as to certain widenings at a total cost of £90,000, of which Fulham agreed to contribute £30,000, and the County Council the balance. These widenings had practically been effected, and, therefore, so far as Fulham was concerned, what they paid the £30,000 for they had now got in the form of widenings. The bargain was embodied in the Bill of 1904, but the two bodies had now agreed to vary the bargain, and the result was that this Bill had been introduced. If the borough council had objected to this Bill they could have objected to it on the Standing Orders, and this particular clause would never have come before the House. But they did not object. On its merits it was advisable to have the overhead system instead of the conduit system in this particular case. They had two miles of overhead system running from Hammersmith to Willesden already completed and in operation. The continuation of that line was from Hammersmith to Fulham and over Putney Bridge. If they forced the County Council to put down the conduit system there it would link up with two overhead systems, and the position would be perfectly ridiculous. They would not be able to have the necessary through traffic without a change of system at Hammersmith, which would be most awkward and inconvenient to everybody concerned.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.