§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. KEARLEY,) Devonport
I do not 264 propose to trouble the House at any length with the details of this measure which has now been in the hands of hon. Members for some days. My right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already explained fully the provisions of the Bill. So far the Bill has met with an encouraging measure of general approval. I think I may say with confidence that our proposals in regard to their main principle, at any rate, have met with general approbation in all parts of the House of Commons. It may not be accepted in every detail, but I think that all the interests affected will be satisfied. That is a state of things which has not happened before in regard to any Bill introduced dealing with this question, or any Bill affecting so many various interests. A Bill of this nature has no party character whatever about it. It deals with a great and comprehensive subject upon which the prosperity of London depends, and there is absolutely no room for any party feeling whatever. The problem with which we are dealing has received on several occasions the attention of successive Governments. It is a perplexing problem, and if we solve it by this Bill, then I think it is only fair to acknowledge, as I do now, that we are solving it by building upon a foundation which has been laid for us by others. The Royal Commission, appointed in 1902, dealt with this question in that year. Then there was the Port of London Bill which was introduced by the Government of the day in 1902, and based upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission. That Bill, the House will remember, made but little progress whilst it was before the House of Commons. Nevertheless it was an attempt made by the late Government to solve the problem, and it indicated to us various pitfalls and thorny paths which we have thought it advisable to avoid. What is the problem which we have to face? London has long been and still is the greatest port of the world. There is no other port in this country or abroad which can show such a large total of import trade. No less than one-third of the total trade of the country enters by the Port of London. As regards the export trade, taking the total 265 exports of the country no less than one-fourth of them leave by the Port of London. It has played a great part in the past, and, provided its resources and facilities are fully developed so as to enable it to meet modern requirements, it is destined to play a great part in the future. Those who have witnessed and taken note of the development and improvement made in all our great rival ports must be apprehensive lest something should be done in the near future that will make it perfectly impossible for the Port of London to maintain its position of supremacy, and in order to prevent that occurring it appears absolutely necessary that some strong authority must be established, capable of harmonising the many conflicting interests which at present hold sway in the Port of London. We want an authority for London which will take a broad view, and what is more important still, an authority armed with the necessary Parliamentary powers and financial resources sufficient to enable it to carry out any of the works and improvements that are necessary in the interests of the port. That is the idea which prevails amongst all sorts and conditions of persons who have an interest in this question. As regards the adequacy of the facilities of the Port of London, as long ago as the year 1887, a strong appeal was made by the leading interests in the Port of London to the port authority of that day to improve the river and navigation facilities by dredging. They called attention both to the increase of tonnage and of the size of the vessels entering the Port of London. It is quite true that something has been done during the last few years to meet the demand that was made so long ago as the year 1887, but however urgent the question may have appeared in 1887, nothing short of a revolution has taken place in the character of the ships built since that day. Ships are now constructed of dimensions far in excess of those which existed at the time to which I am referring. I am told that twenty years ago the largest vessel built was about 550 feet in length. Ten years later the length of ships had grown to 635 feet, and now we have the "Lusitania" and the "Mauretania" with a length of 762 feet. It is this great growth in the size 266 of ships that has revolutionised the conditions of commerce. Ships are the most important factors now competing for the commerce of the world, and the Port of London is called upon to take ships of this character without having proper or adequate facilities for the purpose. In a great port like Liverpool there is a great development going on to meet the requirements not only of the ships of to-day, but of the ships that are going to be built in the future. The Mersey Docks Board are contemplating spending a further sum of £3,500,000, not in order to meet the requirements of to-day, but they are looking ahead and anticipating that the same growth in the size of ships will continue in the future as has been going on without a break, practically for the last twenty years. It may be said that in the Port of London the question is not so acute as in Liverpool, because it is supposed that a large part of the shipping which comes into London is engaged in the Eastern trade, and has to come through the Suez Canal, which necessarily acts as a factor in determining the amount of water required to come into the Port of London. I would remind the House that in the case of the Suez Canal the depth of water has been increased and dredging operations are continually going on. The depth of the Suez Canal is now about twenty-eight feet, but dredging is going on in order to increase it to twenty-nine feet. I cannot verify what I am going to state, but I have been told that the policy of the Suez Canal directors is that they wish ultimately to get a minimum depth of thirty-six feet through the Suez Canal. I only mention that to emphasise in a general way the urgency and necessity as regards London that such a depth of water should be brought about by dredging as will enable ships of the largest tonnage and of unusual draught to enter the river at all states of the tide. That is our ideal, but whether it will be possible to carry it out without an enormous expenditure of money is a matter for the new authority we are proposing to establish to determine. Of this I feel confident, and I think the House will agree with me, that if the Port of London is to maintain its commercial supremacy it must be able in 267 the near future to accommodate the largest of our modern ships. On this point we have the evidence given before the Royal Commission by Sir Alfred Jones, who is a great authority on shipping. He pointed out that the economical ship was the large ship, and that only those ports that can make provision for the large ships will be able to hold their own in competition with their rivals abroad. That fact seems so obvious that I will not labour it, and the great development which is taking place in Continental ports proves it up to the hilt. I am not in any way speaking derogatorily of what has happened in the Port of London in days past. If anyone wants to ascertain fully what has happened in the Port of London they should read carefully the Report of the Royal Commission, where the whole subject is set out in detail. I am most anxious to avoid saying anything derogatory of the large number of bodies to whom the task of administering and developing the Port of London is now entrusted. I admit that private enterprise has done much to bring the Port of London to the point it has now reached, but at the same time it has long been recognised that none of those bodies are capable of doing what is necessary unless they enjoy larger authority from Parliament and larger revenues than are likely to be raised by any private body. Therefore, it is useless to look in the direction of existing bodies in the hope of finding any authority able to provide the necessary improvements to enable the Port of London to compete with the rapid developments which are going on in other ports. When you consider the magnitude of the work that will have to be carried out you will see perfectly well that only a strong public authority can achieve what is necessary in order to enable the port to maintain its supremacy. Take the three great Continental ports which are in direct competition with London—Hamburg, Rotterdam, and Antwerp. On the figures to which I have had access, the estimated capital expenditure on these three ports alone in the last twenty years is half as much again as the total capital possessed by the existing dock undertakings. In Hamburg alone in the last twenty years there has been an expendi- 268 ture of fifteen millions of money, in Rotterdam, between nine and ten millions and in Antwerp, I think I am not wrong in saying the expenditure approximates to eight millions of money.
§ MR. KEARLEY
That is not the point. I do not stop to inquire what has been the expenditure of the Port of London because the circumstances are so thoroughly well known to everybody, but the existing bodies have not had the power to do what is needed. Still, in view of the fact that this extraordinary expenditure has taken place abroad, and that developments of every kind are continuously going on there to encourage trade, is not it obvious that something has to be done at the earliest possible moment if the Port of London is to hold its own in this great struggle? We have in the Port of London a multiplicity of private interests, and private trade has done much to bring the Port of London up to its present position. The multiplicity of private interests in the port is one of the great reasons for the introduction of a unified scheme of administration, but all those who are in contact with the problem must recognise, as we have been compelled to recognise, that the multiplicity of private interests is one of the obstacles to the provision of a scheme which is generally accepted. Further than that, they must have recognised how sensitive and apprehensive these interests are of any change that may be brought about by a Bill of this kind. So far as the Board of Trade is concerned it has taken practically three years of continuous patient negotiation with all the interests connected with the port to produce a sufficient accord to justify the hope and expectation that legislation would be successful, and in this connection I may perhaps be permitted to refer to the extraordinary skill and tact displayed by my right hon. friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in conducting these negotiations, the fruit of which is the Bill itself to which we are asking the House to give a Second Reading to-day.
Now what are the principles of our scheme? In the first place we propose 269 under the Bill to set up a single representative authority to control both the river and the docks, and this authority will combine in itself the powers and functions of the Thames Conservancy as regards the deepening, dredging, and the general improvement of the river, of the dock companies as regards the great system of docks on both sides of the river, and of the Watermen's Company as regards the supervision and control of the barge traffic. These will be what I may term the inherited responsibilities of the new authority, but, in addition to that, under the Bill we impose on the new authority the obligation to take a comprehensive view at the earliest possible moment of the needs and requirements of the port as a whole, so that it may not be merely a question of carrying on matters as they at present stand, but they will take a comprehensive view of the requirements of the port as a whole in order that they may take adequate steps for putting the port in the position in which it ought to be. The second point of principle is this, that the body in the main will be a commercial body composed of individuals who have direct interests in the trade of the port. At the same time it will be a body which may be taken as representing the general public. The main principle of our scheme as regards this is that the body shall be a commercial body, and that it shall be elected on a general register. We do not want men to come and take a hand in the management and direction of the port merely as trade delegates and as representing sectional interests. We want them to come there inbued with the idea that it is their duty to contribute what they can in the way of management to the development of the port for the common good of all and in the interests of all trades. We do not, for instance, want representatives of the corn trade to come and look after grain. Therefore, we have adopted very much the model of Liverpool in having these representatives elected on a general register. The appointed members will represent certain Government Departments, the Admiralty and the Board of Trade, and the municipalities of London—at all events, the London County Council and the City Corporation—and these appointed mem- 270 bers will be presumed to be representatives of the public interest at large. I make that distinction between them and the commercial members. The majority of the Board will be commercial. The Board is not a large Board. The Royal Commission recommended forty members; we have satisfied ourselves with twenty-four—fourteen commercial representatives and ten appointed. The Board will have the opportunity to select its chairman from outside. We think that, is large enough. My right hon. friend pointed out on the introduction of the Bill that good men are scarce, and that it is easier to find twenty-four than forty. My idea is that if twenty-four men cannot run the Port of London, double the number will not be able to do it. It will be a matter of public spirited endeavour on the part of those who take up this responsible work, and the success of the authority will depend on the spirit and the industry of the men who have undertaken the responsibility. The question of numbers will not be the governing factor at all, but the ability and the application of the men who go there to carry out the work. The third main principle, and this is very important, is that the port is to be self-supporting without any contribution or guarantee from the rates. The port authority will be empowered to impose dues on goods as well as on shipping, but within the limit of a maximum fixed with the approval of the Board of Trade. While it will be necessary that the revenue should be adequate to give a satisfactory guarantee to stockholders, still the utmost possible care will have to be taken that the schedule of dues on goods is not such that it will throw on the trade a burden calculated to do injury. I regard that myself as one of the most vital principles of the Bill. We must take care that we do not make the dues unduly heavy on those goods that cannot bear them. I have had experience myself that certain classes of goods would be really unduly handicapped by the imposition of a charge, small as it may appear, of 3d. a cwt., and I daresay the coal trade is one of those industries which would not be able to bear a heavy impost. The special requirements of special trades will have to be considered by the port authority, and the matter fully 271 discussed before the final schedule is arrived at. The Board of Trade stand in this position, that they will have the final word in the matter. The port authority will not be able to settle the schedule itself or consider it definitely fixed until the Board of Trade has given its assent to it, and I regard it as one of the most onerous responsibilities that is committed to the Board of Trade that they shall have to undertake this. They will undertake, as far as they are able, to work out a reasonable schedule, and the House may rely on it that the very best endeavours of the Board of Trade will be directed to doing this. The fourth principle of the Bill is that, unlike the previous Bill we do not contemplate the acquisition of the docks by arbitration. The Bill actually embodies agreements that have been entered into by the Board of Trade with the various dock companies. I need scarcely say that these agreements are subject to the acceptation of the House, and Parliament is supreme in the matter. That is a very distinct difference between the Bill of to-day and the Bill of 1904–5. A great responsibility was undertaken by the Board of Trade when it proceeded to negotiate for the purchase of the docks. It was made perfectly clear that under no circumstances whatever would we be a party to the acquisition of the docks by arbitration. At the same time, however, we left it quite clearly understood that we were perfectly prepared to treat for purchase directly with the dock companies. We also made it quite clear that if we should come to negotiate we could only buy upon terms that would cast no permanent new charge upon the trade of the port by the acquisition of those interests. I may say there was a good deal of what I will venture to call manœuvring before we got to a definite point. But all the interests concerned have now realised our meaning, and they know exactly our attitude, and they gave us to understand that they were prepared to negotiate with us upon that basis. We asked them for access to their books, and that our own engineer should examine the condition of the docks and all works, and that our own valuer should be permitted to report on the various properties, land, and 272 things of that kind which would necessarily have to be included in the purchase. The London and India Docks hold about 750 acres of land, upon which they place a very high value, and, of course, it was necessary for us to ascertain what the value of that land was for the purposes of the undertaking. I may say that we had the benefit of the views of one of the best valuers in the country. We endeavoured to select, and I think we succeeded in our effort, three of the most competent persons to be found in this great city. We employed Mr. William Plender, of the firm of Deloitte, Pleader & Griffiths. Then we had the advantage of the services of Mr. Crutwell, a partner of the firm of John Wolfe Barry & Partners, and we also had the services of Mr. Bousfield, of the firm of Edwin Fox & Bousfield. We are able, I am glad to say, as the result of all this, to state that the revenue to be anticipated from the docks will be sufficient to provide for the charges imposed by the purchase on the new authority. We have ascertained to our own satisfaction that there is at this moment an available revenue based on the average of the figures for a period of six years past sufficient to discharge the interest on the purchase money and the liabilities which the new authority will have to meet. In taking this term of six years, we have included years of very serious depression as well as years when there has been a boom, if I may use the term. Taking the thing all the way through, I think in our estimate we have struck a very happy mean in regard to the revenues which we are likely to receive in the future, and which will he available for the new authority when it takes over the responsibility.
§ MR. KEARLEY
Yes, I will. The figures, which are based on the average of six years, give an estimated revenue in round numbers of £808,000. The interest charges on the stock issued by the new port authority are estimated to total about £800,000, so that we 273 have left a margin, although it is a somewhat narrow one.
§ MR. KEARLEY
We thought that that was a reasonable period, because in those six years there are periods of depression and of trade activity, but as a matter of fact we are satisfied ourselves that this is a fair estimate. There was no obligation upon us to take six years, but we thought that that was a fair period upon which we could make a calculation.
§ MR. KEARLEY
I wish to point out to the House that by the course we have taken and by the arrangements we have made we have avoided entirely the heavy expenses of arbitration. In that particular alone, I think, we have reduced to a minimum the expense of the acquisition of these undertakings. There is another very important point bearing upon what I have already said in reference to the urgency of this matter. We calculate that, by avoiding the long and tedious process of arbitration which is a very laborious matter, we have saved two years. We know now exactly what we have got to pay; we know that we have reduced the purchase to a minimum, and we have saved two years of valuable time. Those, at any rate, are three important particulars in which we have succeeded. This Bill will go to a Committee, and we shall be perfectly ready before that Committee to justify the price to be paid. I notice that some scaremongers have published to the world at large the idea that we have bought at an exceedingly high price. I read an observation of that character in a speech made by the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire, in which he said that we were proposing to pay £75 for the third shares which were notoriously not worth £20. I do not know what the statement of the hon. Member before the Committee will be, but we shall be quite prepared to see him there to justify his accusation. The Government are quite ready to justify before the Committee upstairs every penny that we 274 are going to ask the House to agree to pay for these undertakings.
I think I ought to say a word or two with regard to the position of the wharfingers. We do not propose nor do we think it practical to propose that the new authority should be required to purchase the wharves, although we are perfectly ready to leave the dual authority a free hand in this matter. We say that if they should consider it expedient in the future to purchase the wharves they will be at liberty to do so. Of course I have my doubts upon this matter, but nevertheless we are ready to give the new authority a perfectly free hand in the matter. While saying that, I am bound to admit that we recognise the rights of the wharfingers to have their position fully considered, and we are prepared to consider their case sympathetically. At the present time we are carrying on negotiations with them, and I have the warmest expectation and confidence that we shall succeed in effecting an accommodation with them satisfactory to them and at the same time not detrimental to the interests of the new authority. Whatever arrangement is made with them we must keep in mind the paramount object of our measure and not allow any interest to intervene which will be detrimental to the ultimate object this Bill has in view.
There are one or two other points of principle to which I wish to allude. There is Clause 23, which requires the new authority to take into consideration the methods of engaging casual labour. Everybody knows full well that casual labour in the East End of London, and the methods of employing it, are a great scandal. This question was brought prominently to the attention of the public at the time of the great dock strike, and something was then done to reduce the evil. Nevertheless, I think we should have been neglecting our responsibility if we had failed at this juncture, when the opportunity offered itself, to take some steps to remedy the evil by inserting a clause in the Bill whereby the new authority will be compelled to take into consideration the methods of engaging casual labour so as 275 to ensure as far as possible some degree of regularity of employment, registration and other methods, which will tend to reduce the hardships to a minimum, if not to annihilate them altogether. Then with regard to housing accommodation upon works undertaken by the new authority. We anticipate that the new authority will be compelled to undertake works and carry out large extensions. Consequently it will be their responsibility to provide suitable accommodation for those who will be employed when such works are undertaken. The new authority will have to decide whether the housing accommodation shall be on the spot or not. In my opinion it might be wiser to remove the housing accommodation further into the country. At any rate, wherever new works are undertaken it will be an obligation on the part of the new authority to provide adequate housing accommodation. Then we have taken power under this Bill to give the new authority the power to acquire waste land needed in any development scheme without coming to Parliament, although they will have to approach the Board of Trade, who, in this matter, will be the custodians of Parliament. I know certain kinds of land may be required which cannot be treated in this way, but we have scheduled the area containing all the waste land, and with regard to the acquisition of those particular lands the Board of Trade thinks it is perfectly competent, and Parliament will have sufficient confidence in it to allow it to determine the matter.
All I have said up to this time applies to the Lower River, and it is difficult to say what will happen as regards the Upper River. According to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, we propose to constitute a body of conservators representing all the adjacent bodies and boroughs bordering on the Upper River, and this committee will be responsible for the management of the Upper River. There will be on that committee representatives of the Metropolitan Water Board, the port authority, the Board of Trade, and the various Upper River authorities. I may say that there will be a clear distinction between the two bodies managing the Upper and the Lower 276 River. I know the Upper River is a great pleasure resort much frequented by Londoners, and we hope the new authority will preserve the amenities of the river for the delectation of thousands of people who will no doubt continue to enjoy it. I wish to say, in conclusion, that although some of the interested parties differ from us on some points, they have given us the fullest information freely and they have helped us generally in the preparation of this Bill. I express the hope that through this Bill the future greatness and increased prosperity of the Port of London will be assured. I am going to move later on to refer this Bill to a Joint Committee, and in doing so I am only following the example of Mr. Gerald Balfour upon the Second Reading of the Port of London Bill in 1903. The Government, in asking the approval of the House in regard to the Second Reading of this Bill to-day wish it to be definitely understood that it carries with it in a distinct form the acceptance of our proposals for the purchase of the docks. I beg to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ *SIR F. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)
said that, having been Chairman of the Thames Conservancy Board for over ten years, he naturally took a deep interest in this Bill. He might safely say that he welcomed the measure which had been brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He thought it was a great advance on any Bill which had been brought in before because it removed all manner of sores which had appeared in every other Bill, and he thought it dealt fairly with all the interests concerned. Therefore any remarks he made would not he antagonistic, but would be put forward in the hope that some little change would be made in the Bill in one or two respects. His first observation was that he was very sorry the decision had been arrived at to separate the authorities controlling the Upper and Lower River. That separation existed some few years ago, and he might say that it came to utter grief. It was found that they were not able in the Upper 277 River to carry on the management and expense of the administration, because they had no power to put any tax upon adjacent landowners. When the Conservancy Act was passed some years ago the Upper and the Lower Rivers were put under one Board, and to show the financial position of the Upper River the price fixed for the redemption of the debt was only about £5 per cent. He could only say that it was of the utmost importance that the Lower River authority should have the Upper River in its own hands, for this reason. The balk of the water which went into the Lower River came from the Upper River. If the Upper River had the power of dealing with this water as it pleased, what was to prevent it from getting more income by selling to the water companies, thereby depleting to a certain extent the Lower River, which would make dredging much more difficult to carry out, and much more difficult to be maintained. He hoped that the Board of Trade would increase its powers, so that it might take over the Upper River with the Lower River. It was not quite exactly the same now as it was then, because the money got from the water companies, of course, increased the income. There was no doubt that the passenger traffic and the barge traffic was so small that not more than about £2,000 a year could be got in that way, while the upkeep of the locks cost about £16,000 a year. If they had not some powers, they would want to get money to keep themselves afloat. He thought the President of the Board of Trade should look into it and see whether it would injure the principle of the Bill to keep the river one as now, because it would be of great advantage to the scheme if that could be carried out. There was only one other point upon which he wished to say a few words. He was very glad to hear what was stated in regard to waste lands. He considered that in the waste lands lay the future of the Port of London. In foreign ports the question of wharf age was very important, for this reason that ships could be put at once at those wharves in less time than it took to get into docks, but if these docks were built in stages, one above the other, the cargo from various parts of the ship could be discharged at the same time. Railway 278 carriages and wagons could be run alongside the wharves, and the goods from the ships could be raised and placed in trucks at once. If that could be done in the Port of London, it would be a great help, and it would prevent delay on the part of the shippers. Delay was the thing that cost money—the delay in getting into docks and in discharging the cargo at one platform—and it was so large that it prevented a great number of people from coming to London. In other places there was no doubt that the means for the quick discharge of cargo existed. He looked forward to the time when these waste lands would be devoted to this purpose, so that the Port of London would be made far more commodious and expeditious than it was now. Those were the two points he wished particularly to mention to the promoters of the Bill. There was no doubt that they must have a single authority to take up the docks. He doubted very much as to their being so valuable as was stated. He knew that at Hull when the North-Eastern Railway Company took over the docks there they gave something like £250,000 for them at the time, and the railway company spent another —250,000 upon them, and could not perform their duties then, and in fact nearly the whole of the money was thrown away. Of course there was this difference that the smaller ships might get in without any great outlay and expense, but there was no doubt that they could not reorganise these docks, they must give them their present uses. They could not make them into larger docks without serious outlay which would not be remunerative. Therefore, he looked to the time when the suggestion which had been made in regard to utilising the waste lands would be carried out. The value of the wharves was very great, and the point really raised was the competition between the public dock companies and the private wharfingers. The hon. Gentleman had said that negotiations were going on for dealing with the parties, and, therefore, he need not say more on that subject. He could only say that he was glad to see this Bill introduced in such a business-like way, because that was the point they had to look at. He hoped 279 particularly that the question of keeping the two rivers united would be considered.
§ *MR. CARR-GOMM (Southwark, Rotherhithe)
said he rose as a riverside Member to say a few words on the Bill. They were discussing a question of enormous importance, and there was hardly adequate time for going into the details which came under it. When he saw the number of hon. Members on all sides who were to follow, equipped with information and ready to discuss all those questions, he felt somewhat as the fortunate individual must have felt who at the psychological moment entered the Pool of Bethesda in the face of his unsuccessful rivals on the bank. He thought the House would pardon this his first intrusion in debate when he said that his constitutents had to work very close to the river from London Bridge to Deptford Reach, and that they viewed with natural concern and interest the setting up of this new authority in Lon- don. He would not attempt to go into the financial part of the question, because he knew that others would do so. He could only say that the welfare of those who worked on the riverside was being placed in the hands of those twenty-five gentlemen, who, without any guarantee from the rates, had the slightly emharassing task of improving the Port of London, of bringing it up to modern requirements, and of attracting the trade on which the citizens of London would depend. He realised that the finance of the Bill was based, and naturally based, on the replies given by the London County Council to the questions put to them by the Board of Trade, and he saw beneath the veil of official language a certain surprise and indignation that it should be thought that the London County Council should be in any way held to be responsible for the improvement of the port. He could not help thinking that that august body would have done well to have looked at the debates on the Bill which was brought before Parliament by a former President of the Board of Trade. If they had done so, they would have taken a different view as to the burden the ratepayers would have to bear if there had been some guarantee from the rates in con- 280 nection with the proposed reforms. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's spoke of the minute burden on the ratepayers. The present authority had to do without that Speaking for a large portion of his constituency he could only trust that the provision in the Bill would be sufficient, and that there would be a sufficient amount of trade in the Port of London to be able to bear the burden put upon it. He wished to thank the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for not overlooking the interest of the water-men and lightermen when he took counsel and considered the cases of the various competing interests. The lightermen, he thought, need have no fear about the Bill. They seemed to be in a better position under the present Bill than under the former Bill. Under Clause 8, transferring the powers and duties of the lightermen's Company, the obligation to retain the licence of lightermen and watermen was a point gained. He thought it might be of advantage if it could be found possible for the new authority to work in conjunction with the Watermen's Company in retaining, certainly to a large degree, the system of apprenticeship. When they heard hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House speaking of unemployment they often heard them refer to the disappearance of the apprenticeship system. Here they had a very valuable system which they should retain and he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his care for the very worthy watermen who worked on the river-side. He welcomed Clause 23 which he thought was one of the most important in the Bill, referring as it did to casual labour. He had always supported, for his own part, the scheme of labour exchanges for riverside work, and he thanked the Government for this first legislative recognition of the system. Anyone who had had anything to do with labour exchanges must know that the system could only rest upon neutrality; that was, the workers and the employers must have full access to the organisation of the exchanges; and if the exchanges were to be set up under the port authority there must be some control over them. He did not believe the system could be a 281 success if entirely controlled and supervised by the employers, and he therefore felt that first of all in setting up this port authority the labour exchanges and their waiting-rooms must be outside the dock premises, or else some statutory provision should be inserted in the Bill for securing the independence and neutrality of the exchanges. He believed that there was a certain amount of suspicion towards this new system of labour exchanges, and, more than that, in order to make this scheme for drafting a large body of workers up and down the river according to the fluctuations of trade thoroughly practicable and to make he men trust it, they should have them directly represented on the port authority, even though some of their representatives might be appointed as delegates of the London County Council. He believed that they could have men from both the north and south side of the river who understood the needs of labour, whom the men could trust, and who would be able to put the officials of the authority on the track of first-rate men to be engaged. He wished to ask all the members on the opposite side of the House as well as on the Government side to work together so as to get the Bill through this session. They in London had waited for years for this measure, and he only trusted that they had not waited in vain.
§ *MR. BARNARD (Kidderminster)
said he wished to express his approval of the measure, which it appeared to him would solve this long-vexed question ill a most admirable manner. He differed altogether from the hon. Baronet regarding the division of the river into two separate bodies. Like himself the hon. Baronet had been for a long time; a member of the Thames Conservancy, and he was absolutely convinced that there was no other business way of dealing with this question than by separating these divergent interests in the way the Bill did. He was also of opinion that bringing about conferences of all the different interests concerned was the most likely way to get the Bill through. He did not think the House need at present go into the detail of whether one person got a little more or a little less. They could not have 282 accomplished what they had done with any chance of success if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not brought these people together in the way he had. He was very glad to hear from the Secretary to the Board of Trade that negotiations were in progress with the wharfingers, because he felt that that great body should be dealt with reasonably and equitably. He observed that Section 313 in the Thames Conservancy Act was not one of the sections proposed to be repealed by the Bill. Referring to the Watermen's Company, that section said—Nothing in this Act shall be held to affect any right, privileges, or exemptions, actually enjoyed by owners of lighters passing along the River Leo and its branches into or from or along the Thames or to affect the persons employed in such lighters.He assumed that these rights were to be maintained. At any rate that was a matter he would like the Board of Trade to consider. Again, he assumed that the officers of the Thames Conservancy would have the same consideration under this Bill as was granted under the Water Board's Bill to their existing officers. For his part, knowing something of the Water Board, lie was glad they were not going to have again all those arbitration proceedings and heavy expenditure which were incurred when the Water Board Act was passed. Now as to the Upper River. The constitution of the Board for the Upper River was a matter of very serious importance to many of the parties concerned. Speaking as a member of the Water Board, while they disliked the constitution they loyally accepted it as they found it; but he wished to refer to one or two points, not antagonistically, of the proposals of the Board of Trade. It was quite out of the question that the Water Board could carry on their business on the new Upper River authority with only one representative. They provided four-fifths of the revenue of the Upper River, and he would like the Board of Trade to remember that they had to look to the purity of the river and that the water should be maintained in a condition fit to be used for drinking purposes, as at present, or better. He knew that more consideration had been 283 given by the Board of Trade to the consitution of the new port assembly than in previous proposed Bills; but as regards the Upper River, they were going to give representatives to the county councils and certain small boroughs. The question of pollution was very important for the future, and he put it to the Board of Trade that some assurance should be given to them that additional representatives would be conceded to the Water Board, which would not alter the scheme of the Bill in any way, for the upcountry would have always a majority of fifteen or sixteen. This was a matter on which he might reasonably ask for some sympathetic remark from the representative of the Board of Trade. One thing more. They were looking forward to a Rivers Pollution Prevention Bill from the President of the Local Government Board. When that came he dared say it would alter altogether the state of affairs, but meantime they had to take things as they found them. They had in another Act of Parliament the right as a Water Board to ask the Lee Conservancy to put into effect any powers they possessed in regard to pollution, and if they failed to do so they could ask a Government Department to step in and take action. Other Acts contained stepping-in powers. He thought the Board of Trade should put a clause something like that into this Bill. One part of the Bill gave power to the Board of Trade to formulate Provisional Orders to deal in a certain way with enactments and finance and what not. He understood that the intention of the Board of Trade under Clause 6, subsection 6, was to obtain authority to use Provisional Orders for revising the charges leviable by the new Conservators of the Upper Thames. It so happened that a sum of £35,000 was paid by the Water Board to the Board of Trade. Was he right in understanding that this section was not intended to apply to the existing arrangements between the Water Board and the Thames Conservancy or to making any alteration of it?
§ *MR. BARNARD
One word more. The claim of the wharfingers to a representation on the new port authority seemed to be omitted from the Bill. He thought that claim appeared to be unanswerable and should be conceded. He wished to make it clear that he was personally strongly in favour of the Bill as he found it, and he should like to be able to advise the authorities concerned, in whom he was interested not to lodge petitions against the Bill, but to endeavour to make some arrangement with the Board of Trade.
§ MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said that the crux of the question was, as they had just heard from the hint of the hon. Member, that this Bill was going to be fought in Committee by various private interests. It was to be hoped that the Government, or rather the country, would not be subjected to some of those costly inquiries in the Committee room which in past times had characterised the progress of the port schemes for the City of London. Indeed, one of the great troubles in connection with this vast undertaking for the control of the commerce of our capital had been that for at least fifteen years, to the knowledge of many of them who were closely connected, perhaps too closely, with the commercial interests of the city, the dock authorities had not known what on earth was going to happen next. The result had been not merely that the dock authorities had been unable to extend their property and possibly bring some of their appliances up to date, but that they had been practically unable to expend the necessary capital without any certainty at all of regulations which Parliament might make, and which would affect the value of their properties most materially. He did not agree with his right hon. friend who had spoken about the importance of unifying the upper and the lower reaches of the river in their government. He thought that the interests involved in the rural and more attractive sections of the river, and the 285 questions involved in the uses of the river in relation to the towns upon its course, and the water supply of the upper sections of the river, were so totally different in their character from the commercial questions involved in the lower reaches of the river, that the Government had acted very wisely indeed in leaving the lower section of the river under the control of the new authority alone. He suggested to the Government that it would have been somewhat wiser to have extended the limits of this measure down the river. The eastern limit of the authority's port was Havengore Creek on the northern side, and Warden Point on the south side, but if they would consider a little they would see that they had omitted just outside this area some invaluable tracts of waste land which would be of the utmost value to the port authority for utilisation in connection with their great dredging scheme which they proposed to make. Those who were familiar with the port of Hamburg knew well that that port was sixty miles from the mouth of the river, and required something like twenty dredgers constantly at work dredging the channel up to Hamburg. And might he say while he was speaking on this point, that there could be no greater mistake in the world than that which was often made by the critics of the port of London when they adversely compared the channels up the river leading to the Port of London with the channels of Antwerp, Rotterdam, or Hamburg. There were shipowners there who knew far better than he did the facilities of these three ports, but he thought he was perfectly correct in saying that for a rapid journey up the river our river compared favourably with any of the channels of these competing ports. But near the channel which was constantly dredged up to Hamburg by these twenty powerful dredged vast areas of waste land had been utilised and had come to be of great commercial value because they had been utilised as tipping grounds for the dredged material. In consequence of the material being utilised in this way and placed upon them the lands had become of commercial value. He did not see that in this case there had 286 been quite a recognition of the importance of scheduling within its limits these large areas just outside the Havengore Creek, which he thought someone else might utilise some day for the purpose which he had indicated. He had spoken a moment ago of the fallacy of assuming that the approaches to the port were in any way inferior in regard to the character of the channel, and also for facilities for rapidly handling goods, to the ports that had been mentioned as the most formidable Continental rivals across the Channel. He thought that any test which they chose to apply to the port of London would show that, hampered as the port authorities had been by the conditions to which he had alluded and subjected to the irritating interference, if he might say so, on the part of the wharfingers, which had seriously hampered the trade of the port, the port had held its own in a way which some of their critics were not willing to admit. On the subject of the wharfingers he noted with some little interest the negotiations which were pending between the wharfingers and his right hon. friend below him, because at the very bottom of the financial success of the Bill was the importance of retaining at least at its presents level the existing net revenue available for the payment of interest upon the new stock. His hon. Friend opposite had stated the case for the port of Hull, where he said a few years ago one of the railway companies took over some of the big docks, spending a sum of £250,000, and found that the whole of their money was unremunerative. What was the real secret of that? It was that the railway company came under one of those Parliamentary obligations which were so often forced upon railway companies of reducing the rates they knocked the bottom out of their revenue and, therefore, had nothing to pay upon the additional capital that they were called upon to expand. He hoped that the President of the Board of Trade would not listen too much to the representations that might be made by the wharfingers, either for a reduction of charges in connection with the docks for discharging over the side in the barges, which had been one of the most 287 serious troubles in the docks, or for setting up some special class of representation of the wharfingers on the new port authority. Might he just say one word in conclusion with reference to the finance of the Bill? He thought he was correct in assuming that the total borrowing powers of the port authority were not to exceed the sum of £5,000,000. He would like to know whether that was exclusive or inclusive of the borrowing powers which were already inherent in the existing dock authority, and the borrowing powers of the existing companies. He was bound to say that this measure was, he thought, a vast improvement upon any proposals which had hitherto been presented to the House. It had the great advantage of not being a State or a municipal undertaking. No guarantee had been asked from the State and no guarantee whatever had been asked from the County Council, or if it had been asked for it had not been given by the County Council. At all events it was not sought in this Bill; it was not asked for in this Bill, and they were not asked for it. As far as he was concerned he thought the Port of London would be likely to flourish in a greater degree the more it kept away from municipal and State control. They were certainly engaged that afternoon upon a not very sensational measure, but he was not at all certain that the measure was not of infinitely greater importance to the commercial prosperity and progress of our capital and port than possibly some other more sensational measures which sometimes came before the House.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said that perhaps as representing a borough which was at the entrance of the port he might he allowed for a few minutes to intervene in the debate. It had been very generously stated by the Secretary to the Board of Trade that the present Government in putting forward this Bill were building upon a foundation laid by others, and the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat had stated that the Bill was a great improvement in all respects over all other previous Bills. He was sure the Secretary to the Board of Trade would 288 willingly say that it was not altogether an act of genius on the part of the late President of the Board of Trade in presenting this Bill. He was able to profit by the experience of his predecessors in office, and by that of the promoters of previous Bills, and they were able in this House and outside of it to elicit from the public and from any interests concerned, evidence which had been of great benefit to the Department which the hon. Gentleman so well represented in this House. He would not attempt to deal at all with the financial details of the Bill. He agreed with its main principle, and he congratulated the Government and most sincerely the present Chancellor of the Exchequer on having been able to make arrangements with the competing dock companies. The hon. Gentleman in moving the Second Reading of the Bill had spoken about conflicting interests. He did not think that he meant to say conflicting interests, but competing interests. These competitive interests had, of course, been difficult to amalgamate, and it was a triumph of departmental skill to have been able to amalgamate them for the purposes of this Bill. Much had been said about the decline of the trade of the Port of London—the comparative decline. He did not think that the Secretary to the Board of Trade had made any such statement. The trade of the Port of London had not declined, and since his right hon. friend sitting below him was a member of a Commission which brought in a Report upon which further efforts in the direction of solving this great problem had been based, the trade of the Port of London had very considerably improved, not through solving or ending of all the problems, but through other considerations. Perhaps the House would allow him to make one or two quotations which were very interesting. He took the years 1900–4. The increase of imports in that period represented 1,207,000 tons, and the increase of exports represented 730,000 tons. This Bill did not excite the jealousy or rivalry of competing ports, and he did not know what attitude the hon. Member for Liverpool took with regard to it, but he had every reason to be satisfied with what Liverpool had done. The increase of imports 289 to Liverpool for 1900–4 were 1,985,000 tons, a very considerable amount more than those of London, and the increase of exports was over 1,000,000. In Hull there was a decrease of 337,000 tons of imports and 687,000 of exports. There was also a decrease in the Tyne ports. So that London had not done so badly in these particular years, and he believed in the last three years there had been a proportionate increase. He only mentioned these figures to emphasise the possibilities of the Port of London of which the Report that his right hon. friend below him signed drew so eloquent and so inviting a picture. Undoubtedly the Port of London had suffered very greatly from the uncertainty of the arrangements and the inadequate provision made. The Secretary to the Board of Trade had referred to the deepening of the river. There was an absolute necessity for deepening the river from the Nore to Gravesend. The great ships could not have that accommodation in the river which was necessary if the trade of the Port of London was to be expanded. When the deepening of the river took place it would require a good deal of money to effect it. But he was of opinion, and that opinion was based on information obtained from many quarters, that perhaps the docks at the present time were not so well managed as they might be.
SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he would explain in what way. For instance, it was a curious thing that, taking a certain day of the year, the berthing room was not found to be insufficient. That was to say that the number of ships in the different docks represented, in the case of the St. Katherine's Docks, about 70 per cent. of the scheduled accommodation; in the case of the London Dock it was 50 per cent.; in the East India Dock, 30 per cent.; in the West India Dock, 33 per cent.; in the Royal Victoria Dock, 55 per cent.; in the Royal Albert Dock, 55 per cent.; and in the Tilbury Docks. 30 per cent.; the total average of the berthing accommodation used being 43 per cent. That was to say that on a particular day of the year—there was a complaint that there was 290 not sufficient accommodation for the shipping—on a given day in the year only 43 per cent, of the berthing accommodation was being utilised.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
Does that not arise from the fact that complaint is made by these large ships that they can only get into the Tilbury and not into the other docks.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he was open to correction, but he had not, he thought, made any statement which was contrary to what his hon. friend had just said. What he was going to suggest was, that the berthing accommodation in the clocks in the Port of London was ample, but access to it was impeded by the practice of over-side loading into barges in the docks, and the congestion was clue to the barges in the docks at the present time. The over-side loading in the docks not only incommoded the ships which were themselves in the docks, but other ships that could not get into the docks because of the congestion caused by this over-side transhipment of goods. That was a very serious matter, and he desired to ask the Secretary to the Board of Trade whether the Government saw any prospect of relieving the congestion caused by over-side loading. They had clearly indicated that the Port of London were to have power to deal not only with docks, but jetties and wharves, and so on and he wished to know whether it was a part of their policy as a result of their investigations that they should recommend the port authority—the recommendation would be in the Bill as part of the general policy—that deep water jetties should be constructed. The construction of deep water jetties would do a great deal to remove from the docks the present congestion. He was sure that the Secretary to the Board of Trade would agree that this was a very serious question, and if, as was stated in the House by many authorities, what he had said was accurate, it would appear that a solution of the problem lay not only in the building of docks, which was a very expensive business, but also in the development of deep-water jetties. These were the words Lord Brassey 291 used in a speech delivered at the Chamber of Commerce in March, 1888—At Antwerp and Hamburg deep-water wharves were largely used with advantage as to cost and rapidity of discharge. They should adopt the same system exclusively on the Thames. The rise and fall of the tide but slightly exceeded that of the Elbe. On the left bank there were admirable positions for the constructions of wharves below Tilbury. On the right side a short distance above Gravesend wharves could be built in a straight line for nearly three miles with deep water alongside.That was a very important statement by an authority who had made a study of commercial, maritime, and naval questions. It was estimated, for instance, that in the royal Albert and Victoria Docks there were 47,250 feet of berthing accommodation. On one particular day there were thirty-nine vessels, occupying 14,619 feet; of these eight were laid up. On another day there were thirty-one vessels occupying 11,201 feet. In the Tilbury Docks there were 13,650 feet of accommodation. On this particular day only 4,571 were occupied. At the Millwall Docks there were 9,120 feet, and the space occupied was 7,827 feet. If, as had been said, the docks were congested, how was it that on that average day there was only that amount of shipping? The facts were, as the private inquiry showed, that there was so much over-side loading of cargo that ships were prevented from coming in. If that was the case, it surely ought to be the considered policy of the Government, and the policy of the port authority, to develop what would be for the benefit of all countries, and a much cheaper and more natural scheme, namely, that of deep-water jetties, as was done in the case of Antwerp, Rotterdam and elsewhere. That would relieve the congestion in the docks.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
admitted that the Bill did make provision, that 292 it did include the policy, but he wished to know how much importance was attached to it. Did the Government consider that this particular scheme of deep-water jetties would do a vast deal, not only to relieve the congestion, but also to cheapen to manufacturers and others who had bought goods and those who sold the goods the cost of loading and unloading vessels in the docks? He believed that the cost of loading and unloading was at least 3s. a ton for manufactured goods. It ought not to be so much. It would not be more than 1s. 6d. or 1s. 8d., at the outside, at a deep-water jetty. Then there was another point upon which he would like to ask for some information. He knew it was not wise on Second Reading to go too closely into details, but it would be worth while, as a kind of instruction to the Committee, if the Secretary to the Board of Trade could say whether there would be widely differing charges for produce and manufactured goods coming into the port. Suppose there was a manufacturer who used two or three kinds of raw materials, upon which he was charged a certain rate for unloading. Those raw materials made up produced a finished article. But the foreign competitor sent in a finished article, and the dues for those three kinds of raw materials would be greater than the dues on the manufactured article when it came in. He hoped the Secretary to the Board of Trade would believe him when he said he was not putting this case with any idea of discussing fiscal reform, but it was certainly a matter for consideration.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he had just stated that these details were not to be settled on the Second Reading. The conditions would no doubt be settled by the port authority, but someone must ask for this information. All hon. Members would not be on the Select Committee, and surely it would be well worth the while to have an expression of opinion on a point so important. He was very glad the Watermen's Company had been taken 293 over by the authority on such good terms. The men in his constituency objected to he taken over at all, but that had nothing to do with this point. He was glad they had been taken over on such good terms, but he wanted to ask a question which the hon. Member below had put in 1902 with regard to the officials displaced. He did not know whether any such provision had been made. When the right hon. Gentleman replied to the debate he hoped he would be good enough to say, because it was important, when taking over the powers and authority and business, that due and proper care should be taken of the interests of any officials who were displaced. One point, which, however, he did not want to press at all, but to which an answer perhaps would be given, was this: It seemed to him to be essential that Kent and Essex should be represented. He did not know why they had not been included in the authority. It seemed to him that two counties bordering on the river, with interests of many kinds involved by the operations and the administration of the Port of London, should be represented on the authority. Was there any reason why the county council should not have a member on the body? He agreed that twenty-five was too many. If it could be done by twelve it would be better, because on an authority of that kind it was invariably the case where there were so many that they would say: "Oh, there is sure to be a quorum; there is sure to be sufficient members present," and the temptation to be, he would not say careless, because such men as a rule were not careless, but the temptation to shelve, it might be, their responsibility onto the shoulders of their colleagues was great. Therefore he would support a smaller number or the authority. Still he would like to know the reason for not including a representative of the County of Kent and of the County of Essex on the Board. In conclusion, he thought the Bill would do a great national work in developing the Port of London. It could not be a local work, it must be national; and if the port authority constituted under this Bill were established on fair conditions he thought there was scarcely any criticism which could be made against 294 the general scheme, because it would not increase the rates, and the public would not be suspicious that too much had been given for the properties involved. If the authority does the work that they believed it could do it would restore confidence, which was the best guarantee of progress. If the shareholders were dissatisfied with the terms—and a good many of them were—perhaps hon. Members opposite would think that that was one of the best guarantees that the docks had been acquired on reasonable terms. He believed that the properties, so far as one could judge, had been acquired on reasonable terms. The way seemed open at last to establish a Port of London which would add to the national confidence and prosperity, and the River Thames would be left second to no river in the world, in its prospects and the proportion of success that ought to attend the commercial labours of the Metropolis which was the centre of the great Empire. He gave the Bill hearty and warm support.
§ *MR. W. BENN (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said he ought to thank the right hon. Gentleman for continuing a friendly interest in the Port of London. The Port of London indeed had need of friends. It was not necessary for him to urge the great need that existed at the present moment for something to be done towards the improvement of the port. They had had a period of six years delay, and in that six years their rivals had made a great advance. In that period the Port of Antwerp had had an increased tonnage entered of 4,000,000; the Port of Liverpool, 2,000,000; Rotterdam, 3,000,000; and Southampton about 1,000,000. And during that period, although it was oil a much greater total, the increase for London had been only 2,000,000. But these figures did not show the real danger. Although the present was to a certain extent satisfactory and secure, the future was unprovided for. In managing a great port they had not only to consider the needs of the moment but the needs of the future; and during those six years no provision had been made, or very little, for the future of the Port of London. It was quite true that the Thames Conservancy had carried out 295 part of the dredging work recommended by the Royal Commission. It was also true that some of the dock companies had made extensive improvements. But while they bad been waiting for the comprehensive scheme now introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, it had been impossible to make any efforts such as were necessary. If this Bill immediately passed into law it was still possible that they might have to suffer for eight years of neglect. During the last ten years, Liverpool had spent £8,000,000 on her dock accommodation. Antwerp had spent £9,000,000 in about the same period on docks and quays. These amounts were amounts of cash actually expended, but in prospect there were still greater improvements which threatened the prosperity of the Port of London. Liverpool had acquired powers and land for an expenditure of £4,000,000. Antwerp had a heroic programme involving the expenditure of £12,000,000, and within five years two docks out of nine were to be finished. Rotterdam had acquired the necessary land for 750 acres of new docks; and, as they knew, Southampton was constructing a dock which would take the largest ship afloat. It was quite clear that London stood in need of a policy of bold reform, and he thought in the first two clauses of the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman they saw the promise of that reform. In these clauses as to the controlling authority, on which the duty was laid to take the necessary steps for the improvement of the port, they saw the essence of the scheme, and as to the general principle of the Bill he supposed everyone would be agreed. He would like to say a word about the position of the wharfingers. He would like the right hon. Gentleman, if he spoke later, to say something more as to the position of those traders. It seemed to him that they were left to compete with the docks managed by a public authority, an authority which had power to create new wharves, perhaps those deep-water jetties which seemed to be such a promising venture. In addition, charges were to be made on the lighters by which the wharves were fed. He thought the Bill bore with some hardship on the wharfingers who, in the past, had done 296 much for the prosperity of the Port of London. The principle of administration in the Bill, the principle adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that they should secure the management of the docks by business men. The right hon. Gentleman had abolished the separate representations of conflicting interests by setting up a common register from which the elected representatives should be chosen. His principle was that the control of the Port of London should be by those who depended upon it, but it seemed to him that he had omitted one very important section—he referred to the labouring men who worked in the docks. There were 13,000 men employed in the docks and wharves of the Port of London, and although their individual interests were small, the interest of each was his whole livelihood. He happened to know from his experience in his own constituency that these men very often earned a very precarious living. By Clause 23 he saw that the duty was laid on the new authority of considering the question of casual labour and dealing with it. He thought that clause alone was sufficient ground on which to urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to admit d direct representation of labour, by allowing a representative to be on the part authority. The right hon. Gentleman knew much better than he how that could be done. It might possibly be by nomination by the Board of Trade. If it were said that the London County Council had power to select two men from outside its own body to be nominated to this authority, then he should reply that those two representatives were there to represent London. London's port was the greatest of all its interests, and the claim of the workingman for a representative was based on exactly the same grounds as the claim of the wharfingers or the shipowners—it was the claim that he had his daily livelihood at stake in the welfare of the part. While on that question of labour he would like to mention another and perhaps a small matter. He must apologise to the House for mentioning those small matters, but he was not quite certain what other opportunities they would have of bringing them forward. The matter to which he referred was the licensing of lightermen. At 297 the present moment licences to lighter-men were issued by the Court of the Watermen's Company, and that power of licensing the lightermen was transferred by this Bill to the new port authority. They had a perfectly free hand to make whit conditions and what regulations they liked for the issue of licences, with one very wholesome saving restriction, that the man licensed must have two years practical experience on the river. The Court of the Water-men's Company was a body of freemen of the Thames, many of whom had had a long practical experience in the work of the river, and they were able to take, further, a fatherly interest in the welfare of the apprentices on the river, and maintain that pride in their calling of Thames watermen, with which Dibdin has made them familiar. He ventured to urge on the right hon. Gentleman that it might be possible that instead of setting up a new committee, as would have to be done, of the port authority to issue these licences, the Court of the Watermen's Company might be allowed to issue the licences subject to any regulations which the port authority might lay upon them. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had here a most unusual opportunity of combining even ruthless efficiency with the preservation of an historical institution. The income of the new authority was to be largely derived from rates on goods. He would like to point out that it would obviously be unwise to put a heavy tax on transhipment goods which required to be handled cheaply, and there would be great danger of those goods being driven away to competing ports which were taking more than their fair share of them, if heavy rates were imposed. He would like to refer to the present attitude of the London County Council in this matter. He must apologise for criticising so important a body in which he had only the most slender hereditary interest. The London County Council was asked in December of last year whether they would guarantee the port stock, and whether they were prepared to find £2,500,000 as recommended by the Royal Commission. The guaranteeing of the port stock meant a saving of 298 half per cent. on the enormous capital of the dock enterprises—possibly a revenue of —150,000 a year. If power was given to the new authority to rate goods there was practically no risk. These propositions were not new. The Royal Commission has made these recommendations, and the previous London County Council had agreed to them. They had been before the public and had been very amply discussed for six years, but it was three months before the London County Council could find it possible to make an answer to the Board of Trade, and when the answer did come in March it was a halting answer, to the effect that they were not able to guarantee the stock, and that they were of opinion that it was not necessary to provide £2,500,000 for deepening the river, because the Thames Conservancy was carrying out that work. He might remind the House that the Thames Conservancy was spending something less than one-sixth of that sum, and, further, was spending it out of a revenue which was urgently needed for other purposes by the new port authority. In face of the keen competition of Antwerp and Rotterdam, two ports which were lavishly financed with municipal and State money and run with a single eye to efficiency and cheapness, he thought the London County Council was woefully wanting in appreciation of its duty when it refused to undertake these obligations. In conclusion, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for introducing the Bill and expressed the hope that this new authority, though heavily handicapped, might do something to bring to our traders, and above all to those humble people whose welfare depended on the Port of London, a new era of prosperity.
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had stated in the opening part of his speech that he hoped good terms would be made with the watermen, and also that they might make deep water jetties later on, because otherwise they would be competing with a rate-aided authority. Then he had expressed the view that that would be rather hard on these particular people, and he had concluded 299 his remarks by saying that he regretted that this body, which was not a rate- aided authority, was not made one. The two remarks were absolutely incompatible. If the London County Council had followed the recommendation of the hon. Gentleman then indeed wharfingers and others would have been subjected to a rate-aided competition which certainly would not have been fair, but as it was, under the present Bill, they practically could compete with what to all intents and purposes remained a private enterprise. The hon. Gentleman had stated that if the County Council had guaranteed this loan there would have been a saving of ½ per cent. per annum, which would have amounted to £150,000 a year. He did not admit that that was correct, but he left out of his statement the fact that they would have had to provide £2,500,000, which would have been a very serious thing for them to do, and that would have taken away the advantage of the saving. But he did not admit that that saving was correct. How did he arrive at it? He presumed, though the hon. Member did not tell them, that he arrived at it on the assumption that the dock shareholders would have taken a less sum if the London County Council had guaranteed the issue. But that was only his opinion. He was not himself interested one way or the other in the London docks. He spoke merely as a Member for London. But what had taken place was that the shareholders in the docks had been given the average amount of their income for the last six years with a margin of £8,000. That was not a very large margin and those were not terms which would admit of any reduction. His hon. friend asked "Why six years?" He was not a member of the Government, but he presumed it was because the Government wished to be very carefull. The ordinary average taken in purchasing business was three years, and the Government, wishing to be careful—he was always prepared to give them credit when they deserved it—took six years instead of three, and they took six years during which there were periods of prosperity and periods of depression, and therefore he thought they had taken a proper period. But having done that, was it likely that the shareholders would have 300 said: "We will sacrifice part of our income, which has been arrived at by an average spread over six years, merely because the London County Council is going to guarantee the stock." They wanted their income; they did not want the guarantee, and he maintained there would have been no saving if the London County Council had guaranteed the stock. He always endeavoured to criticise, he hoped with fairness, the actions of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in his place. On this occasion he thought they had done very much better than his own Party did two years ago. He was not in favour of that Bill, and he thought that on the whole this Bill was an extremely good measure. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not object to that criticism, coming as it did from an opponent. But it was not the fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Bill was a good Bill. He happened to have some little knowledge of what took place some few months ago. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had had his way he would have committed the very errors that his hon. Friend below him committed. It was only because the London County Council refused to do what he asked them to do that he had proposed what in his opinion was an extremely good Bill. He would give the right hon. Gentleman the credit of having the courage, when he could not get his own way, to get another way. He did not want to say very much upon the Bill, but there was one clause in it—he was not quite certain what the effect of it was going to be but it made the dock companies a railway. He was not certain that terminal charges were not mixed up in that, and he hoped that if that clause was found to damage the railway companies, they would have the sympathy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not know that it would. The hon. Gentle man said it would not. He did not make a point of it, but he happened to notice it and he thought he would ask the right hon. Gentleman what the effect would be. There would be, he was afraid, a certain amount of opposition. He held in his hand a circular from the London Short Sea Traders' Association, which 301 no doubt the right hon. Gentleman had, in which it was said that Amendments of the gravest character were absolutely necessary to avoid irretrievable disaster, and then were other statements in the same strain. Of course, the Bill would inflict, he thought, an increase in the rates which they would have to pay, but in return for that they would get increased facilities. If they got increased facilities they had to pay for them. There was no question about that. The idea that they were going to get facilities without paying for them was absurd. The reason, he thought, that it was necessary that something should be done in regard to the dock question was not that the docks had been badly managed, as the hon. Member for Gravesend said, but because they had not been able to get the money, the enterprise not having been very profitable up to the present. That being so, it was absolutely necessary that someone should step in, and provide some means by which the improvements of the river and of the port could be carried out. Naturally the people who were going to gain by that would have to pay something towards it. Those would be the large ship owners, and he did not think they ought to make any objection. His hon. friend the Member for Gravesend had said the docks were more or less empty, and the reason of that was that they were filled up by barges. Of course the question of free water, as the right hon. Gentleman knew, was a very big question, and on the face of it, it seemed that it was hardly fair. On the other hand, he was very glad the right hon. Gentleman had preserved the free-water rights, as he understood he had, with the exception of a small licence which the barges would have to pay, because those rights had been given for more than 100 years. He thought they were statutory rights. They had always been very advantageous to the Port of London, and they could not really be taken away without heavy compensation. He would point out to the hon. Member for Gravesend that there was nothing under the Bill, as he understood it, to prevent the port authority, when constituted, from expending fresh money on other docks or upon (deep water quays, and really he thought that 302 ought to be left to the authority. They could not discuss that question when they knew very little about the pros and cons of the matter. He was glad the number of the authority was not to be too large. He himself would much sooner have seen twelve or thirteen than twenty-five, not for the reason given by his hon. friend, that the members might be inclined to evade their responsibility, but, first of all, because they would more easily get twelve good men than twenty-five. The world was so constituted that there was not a great number of really first-class men in it.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he did not know who that was. Did the hon. Member mean the Chancellor of the Exchequer? If so, he was rather inclined to agree with him, though he would not put it quite so high as that. But it was difficult to get men of ability, and unfortunately, if they got a large number of men, they were likely to get some, and they were the men of least ability, who would always differ when anything was proposed, and consequently nothing whatever would be done. Therefore he was glad the number was not more than twenty-five, and he would have preferred a smaller number. He again congratulated the Government upon having brought in a Bill upon which he thought the present London County Council ought also to be congratulated, because it was owing to them that they had a good Bill and not a bad one.
§ *MR. DICKINSON (St. Pancras, N.)
felt that the compliment which had been paid to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the hon. Member for the City of London was one of doubtful significance. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. He thought the warm-hearted approval which the hon. Member for the City had given afforded them some little ground for hesitation as to the absolute merit of this measure, but at the same time he did not rise in any spirit of opposition to the Bill. He thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Board of Trade for having brought forward this measure, and having placed them 303 at last within sight of a solution of the greatest problem that London had ever had to deal with. Might he also, at the same time, express his high appreciation of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary to the Board of Trade had gone into all the pros and cons of the question and weighed the arguments for and against the various solutions which had been brought forward. He felt certain that the Bill had at any rate been the result of very careful consideration. It was now nearly twenty years since this question was first mooted on the London County Council. The Secretary to the Board of Trade was quite right in saying that in 1887 the ship owners approached the Thames Conservancy Board with a View to obtaining an improved channel in the river; but it was not until the County Council was established some time that any effective action was taken in this matter. One of the earliest questions brought before Parliament by that newly elected body was that of reconstituting the Thames Conservancy Board and later on the question of the Port of London. It was at the instigation of the London County Council that the Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the whole subject of the administration of the Port of London. He mentioned that fact for two reasons. First of all he wished to say that the delay which had already taken place I in the settlement of this question had proved to be so disadvantageous to the port that, although he might not be altogether in accord with the actual solution now brought forward, he felt justified in accepting this measure rather than do anything which might possibly leave the problem undealt with. His second reason was that his experience had convinced him that this question would not have been advanced to its present position had it not been for the action of the representative authority of London, and although he quite realised that under the circumstances of the case it had been impossible for His Majesty's Government to establish the new Port authority upon a municipal basis, at the same time he could not help saying that he viewed that decision with great regret. It was of the utmost importance that the trade 304 of London should not be treated as an interest separate from the interests of the whole of London. London depended for its very existence on its port and its port depended upon Londoners. Therefore, the attention of the people of London ought to be constantly kept attracted to the management of the Port of London. When public interest was directed to a question of this kind then great things were done, and they saw illustrations of that fact in other towns. They saw it in connection with the greatest of the rival ports. What had made Antwerp London's great rival? It was simply the municipal spirit in Antoverp which had inspired the public authority to spend enormous sums of capital in the development of that harbour. The same might be said of other towns. In Bristol, for instance, the upkeep of the port was a matter of the greatest interest to the people there because the corporation had it under its own care. To take another example, when the Manchester Ship Canal was made it got into very low water at first, and at last the Manchester Corporation advanced money in return for which they obtained the right to appoint a majority of the members on the Board of Management. The result was that the interests of the Manchester Ship Canal immediately became the interests of the people of Manchester, and now he believed that the Manchester Ship Canal was slowly becoming successful. He did not, however, ask the House to dwell on that point, because they had now another solution brought before them, and that was, to use the words of the Secretary to the Board of Trade, the appointment of a commercial body. He was himself rather doubtful as to whether they were not pursuing a fetish in imagining that they would obtain better service from such a body than from a body composed upon the principle of popular election by the people. He knew it was quite true that the system now suggested held good in Liverpool and had been successful there; but at the same time he was doubtful whether under the conditions which prevailed in London they would succeed in attracting business men into this service any more by this system than by giving the power of election to the public. 305 The Government itself appeared to entertain some doubt upon this subject, because they proposed that all the first members who were to represent the trade interests were to be appointed by the Government and not by election. The new authority would be a body composed of twenty-four members, of whom however, not more than three would be men who were in direct touch with the people of London. He knew that this was not the fault of the Government. The constitution of an authority on these lines was inevitable because, from the very first time when a municipal system was proposed, it had met with the most strenuous opposition, not only from traders, but from a great many others. Those who had followed this question for years realised that it would have been quite impossible, in view of this opposition, to propose for the management of the Port of London any system similar to that which had been al opted in Bristol, and lately this solution had been rendered all the more impossible 'by reason of the fact that the present London County Council had taken an entirely different view from that which had been adopted by the former London County Council, and desired to have nothing to do with the Port of London. That being so the only question which they had now to consider was whether this authority, which would have to stand, so to speak, on its own bottom, would be started in such a financial position that it was certain to be successful. Whatever was done there was no doubt that the new port authority would have a very difficult task to perform. It would be bound to raise all its money from the trade of the port, and at the same time it would have to keep the trade from leaving the port. London was subject to very keen competition not only by Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg, which were its great competitors, but also from ports like Harwich, Southampton and Dover; and a very little might drive away the trade from the Thames to some of those other ports. That was the reason which had led the former London County Council to make its proposal to help the new port authority, by mans of the 306 rates. It was most important that this new authority should have a fair start from the very beginning, and he thought there was at the present moment room for considerable doubt as to whether this would be the case. The Memorandum circulated by the Board of Trade stated that it was anticipated that the revenue transferred would be sufficient to meet the obligations which would be transferred under the Bill. It had been explained that an estimate had been drawn up based upon a careful investigation made by eminent accountants into the affairs of the companies. That investigation had been made upon what was termed in the Memorandum: "The adjusted earnings of the companies." That expression was one which was open to a good deal of suspicion. He knew very well what "adjusted earnings" had meant when they dealt with the London water companies. In moving the Second Reading of this Bill the Secretary to the Board of Trade hid stated that an estimate taken over a period of six years was sufficient to entitle him to say that the income of the new authority would be sufficient to meet the expenses. The hon. Member took his average over a period of six years, but if the average had been taken over a period of three years it would have shown a lower figure; and if it had been taken over a period of eight years the result would not have been so satisfactory. The Secretary to the Board of Trade had taken the average income at £800,000, but the average for the last three years came out at about £750,000, and the average over a period of eight years at about £770,000. He preferred, however, to take the actual figures of last year. Last year the dock receipts of the dock companies amounted to £2,385,000. The expenditure of the dock companies plus the interest fiat would have to be paid to the stock holders and the expenditure which would be involved in compensation to the directors and the cost of transfer, amounted to £2,443,000, leaving a deficit of £58,000. The Bill proposed to allow the new authority to raise new income by doing away with the privilege which the passenger steamboats possessed at the present moment, and by charging licensing fees on barges. 307 He believed that these two items had been estimated to realise about £30,000. That still would leave a deficit on the first year's working. It was true that the Thames Conservancy receipts exceeded their expenditure, the reason being that the Thames Conservancy had recent obtained the right to levy new tonnage dues, but that right had been given for the express purpose of expenditure on dredging, and the new body would not be justified in applying that to the ordinary management of the docks, so that, so far as he could see, there was a deficit of something like £28,000 on the first year's working of the docks.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
May I ask my hon. friend how he arrives at that figure? I think he said that he included the amount which was paid as compensation to the directors. Does he include that as a capital amount, or has he put it in the estimate for the year? The other point I wish to ask is whether he has put in the payment on account of bridges into the expenditure of the year, and whether he bears in mind that there will be no payment of the kind in next year's estimate?
§ *MR. DICKINSON
said the payment which he had put into the year's expenditure was for the annual payment in respect of the compensation payable to the directors, and that he understood to be £3,800. And there was I also a similar addition in respect of the cost of transfer. The interest charges amounted to £812,000, because there was, he understood, a mortgage charge of £12,000 in addition to the figure given by the hon. Gentleman, and that brought up the amount to £2,443,000.
§ *MR. DICKINSON
said that possibly this had not been eliminated from the expenses of management and he might be incorrect in regard to that item. But supposing they eliminated that, there still would be, so far as he could see, a small deficit, according to the figures of last 308 year's account, the figures of last year's account being, of course, worse than the figures based on the average of the six years. And further, this left Out of consideration altogether the question of new capital, and there could be little doubt that the new authority would be bound to spend capital to no inconsiderable extend, and to spend it at a very early period, because the capital expenditure on the docks had not been kept up as it ought to have been, and it was essential that the new authority should expend capital at the earliest possible moment. The expenditure of £1,000,000 only would involve for sinking fund and interest an annual charge of £46,000. He had quoted these figures not in the least degree wishing to appear hostile to this agreement, but because they appeared to him to be of immense importance as affecting the future position of this new authority. There were two great difficulties which would confront the new authority. First of all, there was the question whether any, and if so, what dues they were to impose on goods in order to make good their revenue, and secondly, there was the questing how best to obtain the new capital which would have to be raised. In regard to the question of dues on goods, that was a proposal which had indeed obtained the assent of the Royal Commission, but it was one which with great respect he ventured to think had never yet been thoroughly investigated at any public inquiry. The County Council in its proposals had advocated an increase in the tonnage dues on shipping, rather than the in position of duties on goods, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman must feel, and they all must feel, that the imposition of new duties on goods was at any rate a very risky experiment. They could not foresee the effect which such duties might have. The Royal Commission recommended that the dues should be of very small amount and that they should be levied only on imports and not upon exports, but this Bill proposed that the dues should be on imports and exports, and inasmuch as in the Port of London a very large proportion of the trade was in the shape of what was called re-exports, he was of opinion that this proposal might have a very serious, 309 effect on the general trade of London as a port.
§ *MR. DICKINSON
said that as he read the Bill there was a clause which enabled the new authority to make exemptions, and he supposed that would include an exemption on the transhipment of goods, but this was only a small part of the re-export trade. Again, the imposition of duties might affect very seriously indeed a large class of persons whose business was of the greatest importance to London, namely, the manufacturers who had their factories on the banks of the River Thames. At the present moment the fact that they could get their goods there free from the imposition of duties was of great value to them. But, in any case, he submitted that the imposition of new duties on goods should be the very last resort of the new authority, and if it was possible, as personally he believed it would be, to obtain the necessary money for the first two or three years by a small increase in the tonnage dues on shipping, that would be better than the too hurried establishment of a new system of taxation of goods. What he submitted to the right hon. Gentleman was that the whole question as to whether or not there should be dues on goods should be left to the discretion of the new authority. The Bill, as he understood it, made it obligatory on the new authority to present a schedule of duties within six months. If the new authority could have a year, or two years, in which to consider the whole question as to the best means of raising additional revenue he thought the subject might be better considered than had been the case hitherto. There was a second point to which he wished to refer, and that was the importance of giving to the new authority facilities for raising money at the cheapest possible rate. They would have to borrow money at a very early date and they would borrow under conditions that were by no means satisfactory. The London County Council had formerly 310 offered to guarantee the loans to be raised by the Port authority, and there was no doubt that that would not only have improved the security but also made the loan a trustee security, and by that means some £125,000 a year would have been saved to the new authority upon its total capital expenditure. The present County Council had refused to give that guarantee and there was, of course, no means now of giving that advantage to the capital required for the purchase of the dock companies. He desired, however, to submit to the right hon. Gentleman that such advantage might be very well given to the new capital. The Bill treated new capital, he thought, rather unfairly. It gave absolute priority to the A. stock, which was to be handed over to the debenture stockholders, and it compelled the new authority to borrow its new capital as B. stock, which was to be a 4 per cent. stock, and would be worth about £100. If it was stock equal to the A. stock the value would be about £111. What he would suggest to the Government was that if possible they should give priority to the new capital over the capital which was to be issued to the dock companies, and at the same time obtain what he believed it might be possible to obtain, namely, the guarantee of the London County Council to a limited amount of new stock, say, to the extent of £5,000,000 or £7,000,000. By that means there would be on the issue of that stock a saving of £30,000 or £40,000 a year. He hoped that that was not inconsistent with the agreement come to with the companies. The dock companies had got so satisfactory an arrangement that they could very well afford to allow that priority to be given to the new capital. He did not wish to criticise the terms of the agreement. He believed that the choice of the right hon. Gentleman was between that agreement and arbitration, and his knowledge of arbitration led him to know that the price paid to the companies might well have been more than that which the right hon. Gentleman had agreed to. But at the same time they were bound to bear in mind that the shareholders in these companies had obtained very considerable advantages. The market value of the stock to be issued to them would be at 311 least £1,500,000 more than their holdings were worth in June of last year, and nearly £1,000,000 more than they were worth quite recently in the present year. Their aggregate income would be some £34,000 more than the dividends they received last year, so that their position was really secured, and they might very well give the advantage suggested. It would not be unfair even to the debenture stockholders since the value of their stock had been considerably increased. For example, the stock which was to be issued to the holders of the £443,000 5 per cent. debenture stock of the Millwall Company would be worth some £70,000 more than that stock was worth in February last. By giving priority to the new stock they would only be putting the companies in the same position which they would have been in if they had had to borrow the capital themselves. The whole question of the success or the non-success of this new body depended upon very small figures. The margin one way or another would be very narrow, and he hoped that some arrangement might be come to which would place it in a better position financially than it would occupy under the terms of the present Bill. He was glad to hear from the Secretary to the Board of Trade that the figures on which the agreement had been made would be before the Committee. He understood that the agreements would have to stand or fall as a whole, but if the Committee could investigate the facts and figures upon which they were based no one could take exception to such an arrangement.
*MR. BONARLAW (Camberwell, Dulwich)
I do not propose to deal with the criticism on the financial position of the Bill suggested by the hon. Member for St. Pancras. That is the part of the Bill for which the Chancellor of the Ex-chequer is responsible, but I do not think it would be very difficult to answer the criticisms of the hon. Member, because he based his objection on the returns of a single year and that the worst year for the docks. The hon. Member had to admit that even so there would be a very small credit balance or a very small deficit. If that is all that can be said against the financial position of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman who is respon- 312 sible for it has no reason to complain. Before I make a few remarks on the Bill itself, I hope it will not be considered out of place if I offer, as the only Member on this side of the House who had any connection with the Department, the late President of the Board of Trade my congratulations not only on his change of office, but still more on the successful administration of the Board of Trade while he was there. During the time the right hon. Gentleman was at the Board of Trade the Opposition on almost every occasion supported and agreed with the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. That I attribute entirely to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, in the administration of the Board of Trade, treated every question on its merits, as every trade question ought to be. It is for that reason that he has had very little opposition from the Party of which I am a Member. I am glad to say that the Bill which we are discussing is one which on the whole I regard favourably, and I would be sorry if it did not get quickly into Committee. I cannot help thinking, however, that the anticipations which have been raised as to the great benefits that are going to result from the Bill are very likely to meet with some disappointment. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh."] That is my feeling, and both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Board of Trade dwelt in a way which other Members have not dwelt on the difficulties which are to be encountered in this matter. The more I had to do with it in connection with the late Government, the more I was impressed with these difficulties, and during the time since then, experience has made me feel that these difficulties are even greater than I imagined. I think it is possible that the Bill as we now have it is the best method available for dealing with the subject, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that it is not by any means an ideal solution of the matter. I am bound to say that there is an immense amount of exaggeration as to the conditions which now prevail in the Port of London. Let me indicate to the House the kind of arguments which have been used to show how bad the conditions of the Port of London are. It is constantly pointed 313 out that the entrepôt trade is declining not absolutely, but relatively. Anyone who knows anything of the subject knows that that is a change which is due to the changed conditions in which the trade of the world is carried on. It is due largely, and almost entirely, to the fact that there has been an immense expansion in the trade of the world, and that there are now connections with and from all sorts of places. For instance, in my own experience there was only one line of sailing ships running direct from Glasgow to Australia. The great bulk of the trade went direct from London, whereas now there are direct lines of steamers from Glasgow to Australia; and the same thing applies to other ports in our own country. Still more does this apply to all the great Continental nations for whom London used to act as an entrepôt, and who have now themselves direct lines of steamers which compete, and successfully compete, with the lines that go from this country. It is evident that that trade has been developed not on account of the conditions which prevail in the Port of London at present. Personally, I believe that that change is going to become more marked in the future, and I do not think that anything we can do would keep that trade to the Port of London. Another argument used, and this was employed by the Secretary to the Board of Trade, is the great and rapid increase in the trade of Hamburg, Rotterdam, and Antwerp, as contrasted with the comparatively slow increase in that of London. There again, that argument ignores entirely the immerse change which has taken place in the trade conditions of the world. The rapid increase of the Continental ports I have named is due mainly to the far more rapid increase in the total trade of their respective countries, as compared with the total trade of the United Kingdom during the same period. To make that point clear to the House I went to-day into the actual figures of the trade expansion in the several countries since 1890. I cannot give them absolutely accurately, because, while the figures for some of the countries are available down to 1907, in other cases. I have no later Returns than 1905. The result, however, is pretty accurate. Since 1890 the expan- 314 sion of the total trade of the United Kingdom, imports and exports combined, has been altogether about £380,000,000; but during the same time the expansion of the total trade, imports and exports combined, of Germany, Holland, and Belgium has been nearly twice as much—nearly £700,000,000. It must be obvious to everyone that that great growth in the trade must lead to a corresponding growth in the trade of the ports in these counties through which the trade passes. Nothing we can possibly do can prevent the ports of those countries from growing in some proportion to the rapidity of the total expansion of the trade of those countries. Another argument is that the docks of London as compared with those of Liverpool and Antwerp are not up-to-date. I remember reading a remark by the Chancellor of the Exchequer who had been visiting the London and Liverpool Docks, in which he pointed out the inferior condition of the London Docks. But you cannot possibly compare a port like London with a port like Liverpool. The conditions are entirely different, and for this reason, that in Liverpool, when goods leave the ship, the whole handling is done on land. Now, in Liverpool I am told that the lowest rate for car age is 1s. per ton, and in London 2s. 6d. There is an essential difference, and it is that the transport in Liverpool is done by land, and in London almost entirely by water, and water is, on the whole, a cheap transport. Of course, I admit that in London the docks are not up to date, but still they are not nearly so bad as they are represented. Whatever the changes may be it will not be in the direction of making the docks more and more like those of Liverpool; but it will be in improving the facilities for transport by water instead of by land. There is another consideration which I think has not previously been pointed out. All the trade done at present outside the docks will not be under, the complete control of the new authority. When people talk about the disadvantages of London, I ask hon. Members to realise that the trade done in the river and outside the docks—and that is nearly half the trade of the port—is done on conditions which are cheaper than can be found in any other great port in this country, if not in the world. There are 315 no dues on goods; dues on ships are very small, something like 2d. per ton. The result is that for that part of the trade the conditions are as good as they possibly can be. My hon. friend the Member for the City of London talked of the representative bodies which had many objections to this Bill. That is natural. Look at it from the point of view of those who are conducting the trade now carried on, not in the docks but in the river. To them it seems that what we are proposing to do is to put taxes on half the trade they are conducting in the Port of London in order to improve the condition of the other half of the trade with which they have nothing to do. That is what happened to a considerable extent. Now I will tell the House why it is that in spite of holding these views I still think that a Bill on these lines is necessary. My reason is that you cannot look upon the trade of London in part, but you must look upon it as a whole. It is no use to have one-half of the trade of London done under the most favourable conditions in the world, if the other half is done in the docks, and conducted under very unfavourable conditions. Let us suppose, for example, that the facilities in the river become better and better, but that the clocks become worse and worse, until they are quite unable to take in the biggest ships. In the long run the result will be that the consumers in London will pay more for what they receive than they would have to do if proper conditions prevailed in the Port of London. Take for example the case of Liverpool. Liverpool has spent immense sums of money upon dredging the river to a great depth, although the ships requiring that depth are very few in number. And yet in Liverpool nobody suggests that the cost of deepening the river should fall only on those ships which need a great depth of water. Liverpool proceeds on the principle that it is in the interests of the port as a whole that it should be able to take in the biggest ships, and they believe that such accommodation should be paid for not by those large ships alone, but by the trade of the port as a whole. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last took excep- 316 tion to raising dues on goods at all, but that is only part of his natural conservatism. He is not accustomed to dues on goods. I have heard charges made against the right hon. Gentleman that this is another measure in favour of tariff reform because it proposes to put dues on goods. I do not, however, see where that comes in, because the dues are to be put on our own goods as well as those which come from foreign ports. It does, however, mean a broadening of the basis of taxation. If you put all the charges for the port on the ships, the ships will, of course, have to charge higher freights, and the consumer will pay in precisely the same way, because those trades are regulated by the charges at the ports. I agree that theoretically it would make no difference whether the revenue was raised wholly on the ships or partly on ships and partly on goods. If business was done entirely on mathematical lines, it would make no difference, but even business is more psychical than mathematical. It is quite true that a shipowner before putting his ship on a voyage makes a calculation which includes the expenses in the ports where the ship loads and where it discharges its cargo, but if the impression becomes general that London is an unusually dear port, the effect of that will be that shipowners who do not make their calculations with mathematical accuracy will become afraid of the Port of London, with the result that there will be less competition amongst them, and the effect will be that while you think you are saving the consumer by not putting any dues on goods you are really making him pay more by putting on higher freights that if the port were a cheap port. I should like to refer briefly to one or two of the provisions in the Bill itself. I was not hurt by the criticism of my hon. friend behind me and others to the effect that this Bill is a great deal better than the one which was introduced by the previous Government. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will believe that if four years afterwards we introduced a new Bill it would have some improvements on the old Bill, and I will not take up the time of the House dealing with the differences between the two Bills, except in those 317 instances where they have some bearing upon the present situation. With regard to rate-aid, I entirely disagree with my hon. friend behind me. Personally, I do not see any difference whatever between what is called rate and the power to levy dues required to meet the expenses of the port authority. There is really no difference between the two. I agree also with those hon. Members who have said that the interests of the Port of London and the City of London are identical. I was, therefore, in favour of obtaining rate-aid for our Bill on the ground that it would enable us to borrow money more cheaply, with the result that London as a whole would get the benefit. That is a different view from the attitude taken up by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who seem almost to resent the fact that the London County Council has not to pay something, although they are getting nothing in return for it. Under our Bill the House will remember that it was compulsory on the docks to take payment in port stock, and we were bound to see that that stock was as safe as we could possibly make it, because the usual thing was that under such circumstances payment should be made in cash. If I had been a member of the London County Council and had possessed control on the two occasions, I should have been willing to give a guarantee on the last occasion and I should not do so now, because there is a great difference in the monetary conditions on the two occasions. From the point of view of London, at the present moment nothing is more important than to raise the credit of the County Council's loans in London; and even from their sown point of view it might really pay London better that a little more should be paid in interest if necessary, than that the rise which was taking place in the stocks should be limited. Anyone who looks at this question from that point of view will conclude I think, that the port will have no difficulty in standing on its own merits. If you have the power of levying rates and dues the port stock is, in my opinion, practically as safe as the rate-aided stock of the City of London. It should not be overlooked that London is unlike other cities in this respect. In Liverpool 318 or Glasgow the trade does not depend upon a district which must be supplied by those ports, because they have competitive ports. The great bulk of the trade of London is done for the supply of London proper, and there is no competition, except that of the railways. Therefore, if you have the power to raise dues there is no question whatever that it is possible to make certain that the Port of London will pay its way. My next point is the composition of the port authority, and there I have no criticism to make. It is to be composed in the best possible way and based on the principle that the people who pay the piper are to call the tune. The men who are going to control the docks are the men who are going to pay for it, and it is to their interest that the docks should be run in the best way and on the most business-like methods possible. That is the best guarantee for the success of this new authority. I rather doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman has made any improvement in making only one register instead of giving a fixed number of members to the different interests involved. This is, however, a question which is a pure matter of opinion. Upon this point what does experience show? On the Tyne there is a fixed representation of each interest. In Liverpool and Glasgow this is not nominally the case, although in practice it is so, because the different trades combine so that each section is represented at each election by a fixed number of members. I know that we cannot have an arrangement like that in London because it is too big. I believe that it will be found that the present provisions in this Bill will really not give fair representation to the different interests involved in the Port of London. There is one other important point which I desire to bring forward. This Bill, like ours, has the very great blemish that nearly half the trade of London will not be under the complete control of the new authority. I was, of course, very much disappointed that our Bill did not go through, and I had hoped that when the subject next came forward it would have been found possible to remedy that state of things by bringing under the control of the new authority the wharves which 319 are doing business outside the docks. I know the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman has to meet on this point, but I do not think the problem is so difficult on the whole as hon. Gentlemen seem to suppose. There are, of course, a great many wharfingers, but what we are setting up is a port of London authority, and it is only interested in those wharves which can accommodate not merely lighters, but ships. I know it would be quite easy to distinguish and say: "We will only take wharves which will take ships of a certain tonnage." I was told to-day that there are only about twenty wharves of that kind, and if that is so I think it is very desirable to make a similar bargain with those interests as the right hon. Gentleman has made with the docks. I should like the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider whether this arrangement cannot be done even now. I know that under the Bill the new authority has power to purchase those wharves, but that is not quite the same thing. The arrangement which this Bill makes leaves the wharfinger outside, and hon. Gentlemen opposite who do not know, will be surprised to learn that some of those wharves can deal with steamers of 7,000 tons. Under this Bill those wharves will be left in precisely the same position which would have resulted if the Government had bought two of the docks and left a third one to compete against them. Those wharves will be left to face the competition of a rate-aided authority. I do not want to exaggerate upon this point, and I may say that I do not believe that an authority constituted as this new authority will be would deal unfairly with those interests. It seems, however, to me that, if it is possible, this is a point which ought to be settled in the same way as the question of the docks has been. I am sure also that in the interests of the port authority itself, in the interests of concentration, which is one of the advantages we hope to derive from the change, it would be an immense advantage if the big proportion of the trade of London done on the wharves were also brought under the control of the new authority the House is setting up. There is only one other point I wish to refer to. There was in our Bill, 320 as there is in this measure, provision for-the payment of the chairman and the vice-chairman of the new authority. This measure, however, goes further and gives authority to pay the chairmen of committees, and others if it is thought proper. The Bill is based on the principle which prevails in the Mersey, where it has worked very well in practice. In Liverpool and Glasgow it is considered to be a greater honour to be chairman of one of these boards than to be the head of the municipal life of the town. We have been told that in London there is not the same local feeling as in Liverpool, and that there is a great danger that we shall not get the best men in London to fill these positions. In some places I know that the chairman is really the managing director, and I think that is a very good arrangement. If payment is made to the chairman and the vice-chairman I think it will not tend to secure the best men. In the case of the Port of Manchester, there is payment, and the arrangement is a good one because the chairman is the managing director and really conducts the business. But here sooner or later, there may arise a tendency on the part of the ordinary members to say that the people who are paid ought to do the work. It might also very likely have the effect that if the chairman and vice-chairman are paid good salaries, and unless these salaries are fairly large the proposal is useless, the authority will not be inclined to pay the man who is really the manager a big enough salary to obtain the very best man for the purpose. I do not want to be dogmatic upon this point, but the view I hold I think is right, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman instead of leaving it free to the Commissioners to deal with it, might consider whether it would not be better to leave it in this form, that if the Board of Trade find it necessary they should merely obtain powers to make these payments permissible.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE,
who was imperfectly heard, was understood to say: I first desire to acknowledge the kind references that have been made to the Board of Trade and to my own services in the Department, and the ready assistance 321 that the hon. Member has always given to me there. I think, on the whole, it might be said that my hon. friend supports the Bill so far as the main outline is concerned and confined himself to two or three points. I shall confine my observations to those points and not attempt to follow him in the ingenious argument by means of which he sought to drag the House into the fiscal controversy. My hon. friend, I am afraid, finds it very difficult to discuss any of these questions without bringing in tariff reform. His first point, I think, was with regard to the chairman. I will consider the suggestion which he makes, though I am not quite sure what would be the best thing for the Board to do. I feel that the Board would be better judges themselves when they saw the class of man who would be elected; and, therefore, I am rather in favour of allowing them to decide. It has been urged that if the Liverpool and Glasgow Boards succeeded in attracting the best men in the kingdom, then it would be almost a necessary step to take to pay the chairman. But there is a greater difference here. Not merely is there an absence of that civic feeling which is apparent in Glasgow and Liverpool, but there are counter attractions in the City upon which I need not dwell. All these very eligible gentlemen are absorbed by other corporations who are able to remunerate them more adequately for their services than, say, a body like the Thames Conservancy. It is possible, therefore, that the new Board may find it difficult to secure the real services apart from the nominal adhesion of men of this class. It is no use to have a man in authority who may attend meetings, perhaps, once a month. What is wanted is a first-class business man who would put his back into the work, and this is especially important in the first two or three years. A good many suggestions has been made as to the wharves, quays, and new docks. Those are questions which the Board of Trade ought not to decide and which the House of Commons ought not to consider now. They should be considered by the new authority after they have secured the best expert advice available. It is advisable to guard against a mistake being made by the Port of London in the policy it adopts 322 with reference to particular schemes, and as the Board of Trade is not equipped with the proper knowledge and the expert evidence to decide for it, the Department cannot recommend any course one way or the other to the House. But there are other questions which the new port authority ought to consider at once. The Port of London is not so bad as it is represented to be. It possesses enormous natural advantages, though the accommodation has been short and inadequate. There is general agreement about that point. The new authority, therefore, must take up the question of increasing the facilities and the accommodation at once. It is of the first importance that the first chairman of the Board should direct its policy to a large extent, and he ought to be the best available man. The Government has taken authority in the Bill, therefore, that if it is impossible to secure such a man without paying him adequately, then he should be paid such sum as might be necessary. I think that this is the best policy in the circumstances. The second point raised by the hon. Member was as to the register. It is desirable to have one register rather than to have sectional interests represented. It is true that the arrangement may result in having men drawn from varied interests. At Liverpool the interests represented agree among themselves what amount of representation each shall get, and if a member devotes his attention to a purely sectional interest, the other interests on the board has something to say to that representative when, he comes up. It is, therefore, desirable that members should not represent a section of the trade, but that they should represent the port as a whole. In this way you will get a much better class of representative and better work will be performed. After much consideration, therefore, I thought it was better to secure that one register should be adopted and not half-a-dozen different registers. It had been suggested to the Board of Trade that it would be very desirable to include the whole of the shipping accommodation in the port, that one trade should not merely undertake the purchase of the docks and another the work of negotiating the far more difficult task, the purchase of 323 the wharves. I will consider that point also, but it is a much more complex problem. I do not think, however, that it is a matter against which the port authority ought to close its eyes. There are two sides to the question as to all others. The trader rather enjoys having the wharfinger to compete with the docks. He secures better terms as well as greater facility with which the goods are handled. The wharfinger has been keeping the dock authorities up to the mark, though this means no reflection whatever on the docks. The Wharves have profited by air tardiness of the docks, a condition of things for which the docks are not always responsible. But the trader would regard with misgiving the elimination from the Port of London of that element of competition which has kept the docks and the wharves up to the mark so far. This, too, is a point that should be considered. Then there is the question as to the extent to which the port as a whole would benefit by a single management and by the saving of expense that would follow. There is also the economy that might result from the arrangement enabling the port authority to control all the facilities of trade for the port, to make the necessary arrangements whereby one class of business should be sent to this wharf, another class to a dock, and another class to a warehouse. A considerable saving could be effected, and I think that the suggestion is a very valuable one and worthy of the consideration of the Board of Trade and the port authority. The Government take power to enable the port authority to enter into an arrangement of that kind if they think it advisable. I think the proposition that only one half the trade of the port should be brought under the control of the port authority is rather too sweeping, for, after all, the whole trade of the port is under the port authority, and I hope the whole trade will benefit by its operations, because its first function is to improve the waterway, and if the waterway is improved the whole trade of the port must necessarily benefit. The cheapness of a port does not depend altogether or mainly upon the charges; 324 it depends upon the facilities, upon the time which is consumed in consequence of bad management; a day saved is worth a good deal more to a ship than an extra charge. Therefore, I hope that the whole trade, not merely the trade that goes to the docks, but the trade of the river, will also benefit very considerably by the improvement in the waterway. I come to the criticism of my hon. friend the Member for St. Pancras. One of his criticisms, I think, he answered himself, as to why this Bill was not a municipal Bill. The circumstances are very considerably changed, and one thing is perfectly clear, that even if I were of opinion that a municipal Bill was the best means of dealing with the situation, I could hardly force an unwilling municipality to undertake the task. Of course, no one knows better than my hon. friend that every problem in London is very considerably complicated by the question of boundaries. After all, the bulk of this port is outside the boundaries of the London County Council, and it would be a very strong order to bring in a Bill to put under the control of the London County Council something not in their area at all. Before the London County Council is in a position to get municipal control either of the docks or probably any other undertakings, it will have, in my judgment, to reconsider the whole question of its area. This is, of course, the real difference between the Port of London and the Port of Hamburg. Hamburg is not merely a city, it is a State, and it has a very considerable area outside altogether of the city boundaries, and in that case they are able to make arrangements which in London are impossibe. With regard to the question of price: If the hon. Member will allow me to say so, I do not think that his figures were very conclusive, but it is very difficult for me to criticise them without an opportunity of examining them. All I can say is that his figures do not coincide with the figures given to me after an examination which has extended over weeks of practically all the dock accounts, and he admits himself that he has not taken into account the great saving to be 325 effected in the elimination of the directorial element from the management. An extraordinary thing about the position is this. Of course the largest part of the undertaking is the London and India Docks, for which we have paid something like £17,000,000. If you take the London and India Docks there is a saving upon last year's trading of £17,816. If we had bought the London and India Docks simply on last year's trading there would have been a surplus of over £17,000; the deficit has been entirely on the Surrey and Millwall Docks. The only difficulty we have had in putting the transaction through has been, not with the London and India Docks, which provide us with a surplus, but with the Millwall Dock which has provided us with a deficit; yet the Millwall shareholders are in revolt about the price. If we look at it altogether, I think we treat them fairly. I would not like to say we are treating them generously, but we should not wish to take advantage of the fact that we had already secured the largest docks in London. We could have made use of that fact, if the Millwall Company had chosen to stand out. We gave them a price; I do not mind saying that we stretched the figure to the utmost limit with a view to inducing them to come in, because I think there is an advantage in getting the whole of the docks in if possible. We recognised also that they had been unfortunate. It is not altogether their fault. They had a very able body of men at the head of affairs; but they had fallen upon possibly the worst two or three years they had ever had, because the building trade in London which use their docks, had been bad. That applied to the Surrey Dock as well. I think it would have been very unfair to take advantage of that. We went back six years because they had good years about six years ago, and they said: "Are you going to take three years which are bad for reasons which are quite explicable and quite temporary, and rule out the three years which are good? We do not want you to take the good years and buy on that basis, but take the good and the bad years and strike an average." I think that was very fair, and we bought on that basis. 326 It is for that reason that I think my hon. friend is unfair in taking altogether the basis of last year. If he takes the basis of last year in the case of the London and India Docks, we have secured a surplus of nearly £18,000, but the London and India Docks Company were quite shrewd enough, and if they had secured purchase upon the basis of last year they would have exacted a much higher price. But we took the same basis for them, which was bad for them, as for the Millwall and Surrey Company, which happened to be unfortunate in the last two or three years. I think the hon. Member will find that taking it through and through, the purchase price has been a fair one. We had, of course, to take into account that we were buying as a Government Department. We did take into account the fact that if we failed to buy, we could compete with their docks, and they knew that perfectly well. But we could not take undue advantage of that. We had to offer them a perfectly fair price, and what we did was to get the very best men available, thoroughly independent men, one to examine the accounts, and the other to value the properties. We took the best advice, and upon that basis we made an offer, not in a haggling spirit, but in the spirit of offering what we were advised was a fair price, and they accepted it. Those who accepted it with the greatest reluctance were those who met us with a deficit. My hon. friend as a business man will know perfectly well that if he were buying these three dock undertakings, not for the Government but for a syndicate, and proposed to run them as one great commercial concern—I think that is the test after all—I am perfectly certain, he would have been prepared to take into account not merely the earnings of these concerns in the past, but the saving which would be effected by amalgamation. That is a very substantial element when you are effecting the amalgamation of three concerns, and I think you are entitled to take it into account. It is that element which enabled us to give a price to the Millwall Company, which I think we might not have been justified in giving upon the actual figures presented to us. The London and India Docks Company had gone through the process 327 themselves. They proposed amalgamation with the Millwall Company about three years ago—an amalgation by which all the parties would have benefited, but the Millwall Company were offered a bigger price on that occasion than we offered, and that was part of their complaint against us. Although I think the London and India Docks Company were offering more than I think the thing was worth, yet I think it would have paid them, because they would have saved a good deal with the docks under one management, and would have been able to make arrangements for accommodation which they could not otherwise have made. It would have been a transaction, even with the bigger price, for the mutual benefit of all parties. We have to take that into account, and I think that the Board of Trade ought really to enter into this matter on the same business principles as if they were buying for a private concern, taking into account what would be to the general advantage of those who would be trading subsequently with the port. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the saving which will be effected will not merely provide us with the surplus which we anticipate on the figures, but, with good management, with a very considerable surplus for the benefit of the port—thanks to my right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board who has been associated with the preparation of this Bill. My right hon. friend has been in the dock business a good many more years than I have. My right hon. friend has rather been engaged in putting up dock charges, and I was very glad of his assistance in a transaction which will have the effect of lowering those charges, without in any way giving away the benefits which he secured for the dock labourers. Then as to the question of surplus, lands. We made no allowance at all for surplus lands because they do not produce revenue. But my hon. friend should take them into account. There are surplus lands for which hundreds of thousands of pounds were paid forty years ago, and which are available for dock accommodation. I am perfectly certain they could not be bought by any new dock authority without paying over a million for them. But we made no 328 allowance at all for that in the revenue but there ought to be. When you are buying a concern you look not merely to the revenue but to the assets as a whole. Now all that will be taken into account. My hon. Friend has assumed that the docks were really very run down, that they had been neglected, and that a very considerable expenditure will be involved in putting them into anything like working order and repair. I do not mind making the admission that I also started with that assumption, but I have been informed on very good authority that that is not the case. But we have no right to make an assumption of that sort upon mere hearsay evidence, and it was my business therefore to examine into the matter very carefully, because if the docks had been thoroughly out of repair, then I agree with my hon. friend that it would have involved a very considerable sum, though not so much as he says, to put them in order. There was also a suggestion that in order to produce a great revenue the Dock Companies had been rather starving the docks themselves. I got the best authority, and that matter was very closely examined, and the sum of money necessary in order to put the docks into excellent repair would not be a very considerable sum at all. I think they suffer very largely in comparison with the docks of the Continent, and if money is spent to improve and equip them it will lead to the improvement of trade. I do not reckon with my hon. friend that it is going to be a loss which will involve thousands of pounds. I believe it will be a revenue-producing expenditure. It may not be for a year or two, or three perhaps, but in the long run it will pay the new dock authority to spend more money. Of course, it will get rid of the ships out of the docks in much less time, and the docks will be able to provide more accommodation than at present. I was rather surprised at some of the primitive methods of discharging cargo. Whether that is the fault of the docks or not I do not know but I was amazed at some of the wheelbarrow business which was going on. In the short visit I paid to some Continental ports I never saw anything to compare with it. Of course, the Port of London suffers under a disadvantage in comparison with these 329 docks of the Continent, which are comparatively new. They started after new ideas about machinery, and more especially new ideas with regard to the value of railways, came in. These docks were started when we had hardly any railways here. They were constructed for cart business. The docks of the Continent were constructed for railways, and, of course, there is the great advantage that the railways there are State railways and anyone who has been in Antwerp more especially, and knows the railways, realises what the importance of that is. Here the railway clause comes in, and the difficulty is that you have practically the command of the trade of the port in the hands of one or may be two railways which are not trunk railways but little bits of local lines. The other railway companies are put in a very unfair position because they can only get access to the docks under conditions which are almost prohibitive and which must necessarily damage the trade of the port. Go to Antwerp. What do you find there? There you have the ship alongside the wharf. There you have the railway truck right by the ship, and you discharge either from the railway truck right into the ship or from the ship into the railway truck, as the case may be, and it goes without any further change. There is no difficulty of having to go through half-a-dozen different railways, and it goes straight to any part of Belgium. The whole system is adapted for the purpose of developing the trade of the port. What have you got here? You have one little local line of railway. It has to make arrangements with every other railway within the Kingdom. They can only get access under conditions which have been inserted in Act of Parliament, and which are perfectly prohibitive from the business point of view. That is the kind of thing which has to be thought of, and that is why I think even this Bill is not the end of dealing with the Port of London. The hon. Member will find that as far as price is concerned you have got it at a perfectly fair and reasonable price, and that is all we aimed at. We did not aim at getting it under what we thought was fair. We did not haggle in that spirit at all. We felt that something 330 was due to the men who had invested their capital in the undertaking. On the other hand, we did aim at this, that the interest on the capital invested there should not be a burden upon the working expense of the port. Subject to that, I think we have entered into a perfectly fair bargain. I do not know that there is anything else that I have to deal with in this connection. I believe I have dealt with the whole of the criticisms which have been passed upon the Bill. There are points of detail with regard to casual labour, which I consider to be a very important matter. I think it is a hardship to those who are engaged in the work of the docks that the system should not be systematised. It means that good men go without work for a long time, whereas if there were some sort of system they would at least be able to take their turn and such work as is going would go all round. I am perfectly certain, from the business point of view, that to those engaged in business discharging in the port it would be a much better thing that there should be an absolute system. The men themselves would be of better quality, and I am sure the whole trade of the port as well as the men engaged in it would benefit by a regular system of exchanges. Another point I should like to deal with is the question of labour representation. I think it is very desirable that there should be labour representation. The traders of the port would find it to their interest. It is so much better, I think, for them to have any labour question that may arise thrashed out in the Board to begin with before it arises in the nature of a complicated and difficult and heated quarrel outside, and if there were two or three representatives of labour on the Board any trouble of this kind could be brought before them first of all by their colleagues. There is a double advantage—first of all, the advantage to the traders themselves that these questions should be brought before then before they become the subject of heated controversy, and where they can be discussed in a quiet businesslike way; but I think it is an advantage also to the men. If they get their representatives inside they will know from inside knowledge what the difficulties are. For instance, if it is a rise of wages, their 331 representatives will be able to tell them from inside knowledge whether a demand of that kind could be justified under the conditions. It would remove suspicion if you got them there round a table discussing the thing together. Surely it would be better for the traders of the port, better for the dock authority, and infinitely better for the men as well. Of course, there are two ways of giving representation, one by the Board of Trade and the other by the County Council. I hardly think the County Council will altogether neglect the opportunity of securing amongst their representatives some labour representatives, who would be able to assist the Board in any labour complications which will probably inevitably arise in the future. Of course, there is an additional advantage. Here you have a clause with regard to casual labour. I do not see how the dock authority can deal with that unless it has a man inside who will be able to advise them, and who will have the responsibility of a member of the dock authority.
I am very much obliged to both sides of the House for the way in which they have received this Bill. It has been a very difficult business with such a competition of vested interests which were created generations ago. London is one of the oldest ports in the world, and naturally there were all sorts of vested interests. It has been very difficult to adjust them, but I must say this: I took the trouble to consult them with representatives of the committee which helped me to frame the Bill. Having regard to the fact that interests very vital to themselves had to be dealt with, they behaved with singular reasonableness and fairness, and I am very greatly indebted to all these great interests of the port for the very fair and generous way in which they assisted the Board of Trade to arrive at a settlement. I have only one appeal to make to the House before I sit down. I should like to get the Bill before a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons, and I trust the House will assent to that proceeding. It will save a good deal of expense. Otherwise it will have to go upstairs before a Committee, and then go before the Lords. It is very much better that there should be a Joint Committee of 332 Lords and Commons. It is the procedure which was adopted by the Government of which the hon. Member for Dulwich was a Member. I trust that that will be secured. The only fault is this. I think it is a great pity that it should have to go before a Committee of that character at all. There is a good deal in what the hon. Member for Louth said, that if this Bill is going to be fought upstairs by every sort of interest, and expensive counsel are retained and enormous sums of money expended, and the Government are not represented, the Bill may come back with all kinds of clauses and conditions inserted in order to make concessions to eminent counsel, which may make the whole Bill nugatory. In the last Bill there were four or five different things inserted which rendered it absolutely useless, and the result was that my predecessor at the Board of Trade had to put down a Motion to eliminate them. I trust the Board of Trade and the House will retain an absolutely free hand. It is very important that the port authority should not be clogged by impossible conditions. That is really the only object of clearing out the dock authorities at a good price. You want to bargain for a free hand for this great port, and if that is done, I am much more sanguine about the results than the hon. Member for Dulwich. Of course, it will always be a great port, probably the greatest port, but I believe it will forge ahead at a rate which has been unparalleled in the past, and it is with all confidence that I recommend the Bill to the House.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
congratulated the right hon. Gentlemen upon the concession he was able to announce to them just now. He wanted to ask one or two questions which he hoped the, Secretary to the Board of Trade would answer. Supposing the new authority found itself saddled with a deficit, who would have to make it up? The right hon. Gentleman had appealed to the Port of London, but he (Mr. Crooks) wished to point out that the well-being of the Port of London meant the well-being of the whole community. The Secretary to the Board of Trade said there would be dues on tonnage and goods. He wanted to know whether the short sea traders 333 were to have double dues placed upon them by the Thames Conservancy. Would those traders have to pay on tonnage? He wanted to know whether those dues would be continued or repealed. Were they going to levy rates on goods which did not come into the docks? Would there be any difference made between the goods coming to the docks and those coming to the wharves? He thought it was well worth keeping up the trade of the Port of London. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had been accused of driving away the trade of this country. But they now had it admitted that as far as the trade of London was concerned it never went away at all, and consequently they appeared to be redeeming their character bit by bit. In all the continental ports the authorities had risen to the occasion. It was a perfect farce that every person who wanted to approach the docks should be obliged to go over certain railways. He was not surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought that some of the methods of loading and unloading he had witnessed upon London docks were rather primitive. He rejoiced to know that they were going to do something for the organisation of casual labour, because to his mind that was a far greater thing than the taking over of the port itself. In connection with this matter there were sick clubs and benefit clubs in connection with docks. Were they going to be kept on under the new port authority? It was to his intense satisfaction that he heard the statement that the Government did not intend to give any consideration to the surplus lands. He wanted, however, some further attention paid to this matter. He did not want to boast, but he did persuade a dock company to part with a bit of land on lease for a public garden. Surely they did not want to take it away from them. He hoped that under the new authority the twenty-one years lease would develop into a freehold if this Bill passed. If that were so, then they would have the name of the place altered. In the case of ships of 500 tons, they could at present get some twenty or thirty into the docks. But now that ships were being made so much larger, to do that was impossible. He wanted also to ask that the suggestion 334 as to ten nominated members should not be a hard and fast rule. They might take away those representatives from the London County Council, and they would be able to give one of the seats to the West Ham Corporation who certainly deserved some consideration, and were entitled to a seat on the port authority. Another seat might well be given to a direct labour representative. He was not so sure that the London County Council would be able to pick out a direct representative of labour, because he had heard in the House members of the aristocracy declaring that they directly represent the working classes because they had been elected by ballot. That, however, did not suit the labouring people outside. There were a good many different sections of dock employment. He thought it would be a good thing if the employment register were taken as the basis on which the representative of labour should be elected. They had many kinds of employees on the docks. There were carpenters, stevedores, and dockers. He might point out that the stevedore was the aristocrat of labour, whilst the docker was just a docker and no more. He thought it would be well if they gave the employees on the dock the right of selecting their own man. With regard to the labour bureau, he did not like the words of the provision a bit. They began by saying that "the port authority shall take into consideration." That might mean anything or nothing. Casual labour was the tragedy of London, and in spite of all that was done for the dockers in 1889, men were still going to the docks begging and praying for work without getting it. Was the port authority to manage the labour bureau? Something had been said about rearranging the work in regard to the casual, but he hoped he did not mean that the work would go round. He wanted really to take some of the casual labourers away. He wanted a number of them to understand how much regular work there was for them in order that the other poor fellows might know their fate and be dealt with in some other way. By doing that he thought they would be able to diminish casual labour down to at least 10 per cent. above regular employment, whereas at the present moment it was as high as 80 per 335 cent. Let the House think of these poor men going down to the docks each day. He thought this Bill would give London a better chance, and then London might in the future take her proper place. Even if they had to face a deficit he thought London ought to be prepared to bear the burden.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
Said that he had only one criticism to make upon the Bill and it was purely of a business character. He was surprised at one omission. It was so remarkable that he thought his right hon. friend had forgotten it. The new port authority was to have enormous powers conferred upon it in regard to finance, wharves and jetties and other things, but it had not been given any power to light the Port of London. He supposed his right hon. friend had considered this point. He would have thought that one of the first things that ought to be done in conferring powers upon the port authority would have been to give it the necessary powers for lighting the approaches to the port. The effect of the Bill was incidentally to create an inequality between the Port of London and other ports of the United Kingdom. The coasts of this country were lighted under the administration of Trinity House, by what was called a General Lighthouse Fund, and every port contributed to the General Lighthouse Fund for the lighting of the coasts. The majority of the ports contributed locally by imposing local charges upon the vessels using those ports for lighting the ports themselves. But London did not do so. London ever since the year 1898 had not done so, and the lights of London were a charge upon the general body of shipowners using the other ports of the United Kingdom. That was incidentally a blot upon the Bill, and he hoped his right hon. friend would consider the desirability of making it a more perfect Bill by removing that blot from it. The charge for lighting the coasts of the country was about £500,000 per annum. If the cost of lighting the Port of London, which amounted to about £50,000, were thrown upon the new port authority, as was the case in Liverpool, which had been taken as a precedent for this Bill in so 336 many particulars that he was surprised his right hon. friend had not taken it as a precedent in this matter as well—if that course were followed the general charge for all the ports would be reduced by about 10 per cent., and he believed the Port of Liverpool would benefit by about —8,000 a year. He did not mention this matter in any carping or niggardly spirit, but he submitted that to start a new port authority shorn of the power of lighting and superintending the light of the Port, was to start it in a mutilated condition. In conclusion he would echo on behalf of the shipowners generally their good wishes in regard to the Bill, and their obligations to all those who had engineered it so well. He thought that when the measure got into Committee some of the difficulties would be removed and they would be able to make it a more perfect Bill.
§ *MR. MORTON
said he was very, sorry that they had not been allowed sufficient time to consider this Bill as it ought to be considered. Those who were opposed to the Second Reading had a right to protest, because they had not been allowed an adequate opportunity of stating the views of those who were opposed to the purchase of the docks. A charge had been made that it was strikes which had been responsible for injuring the trade of the Port of London. The shipbuilding trade seemed to have gone altogether from the Port of London, and the reason for that was no doubt strikes, high rates of wages, and heavy rates and taxes. He had listened carefully to the speeches made by the Secretary to the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but neither of those speeches gave them any reason whatever of a satisfactory nature as to why the docks should be purchased. The Secretary to the Board of Trade complained of a statement made by him with regard to the value of some of the shares in the London and India Docks. If the hon. Gentleman had courteously allowed him at the time he made the statement, he would have given him an explanation at once. His statement was that the Bill proposed to pay £75 for something that was not worth more than £20. In that statement, he was taking the value 337 previous to the Report of the Royal Commission recommending the purchase of the docks; as a matter of fact those shares stood at £19 10s. at that time, and they had previously been as low as £17. What had happened now? Under this Bill they were actually going to pay £75 for what was worth only £19 or £20 as far as market value was concerned, and it was proposed to tax the food of the people of London in order to pay these millions to rich trusts and companies. Therefore he was quite right in saying that it was a proposal to pay £75 for something that was not worth more than £20. He believed that any scheme to purchase the docks was bad and against the interest of the people of London. It did not follow that anyone was wrong because he ventured to oppose the Board of Trade, even when it was a Liberal Board of Trade. He was aware that this ought not to be made a party political matter, but unfortunately by our system of government it was made so, and in this case is made doubly dangerous by the combination of the two front benches. A combination which put them between the devil and the deep sea. If this Bill passed the Committee would have no opportunity of considering the price of the docks, and therefore it would be tied hand and foot and practically have nothing to do with the matter, because
§ the real point in this Bill was the purchase of the docks. He remembered in the year 1894 when he was trying to get a clause inserted in the Tramway Bills to prevent the companies and authorities from charging extra fares on public holidays and Sundays that he was opposed by a Liberal President of the Board of Trade. Sir William Harcourt, the then Leader of the House, eventually got alarmed by the divisions, and he sent him (Mr. Morton) word that they would no longer oppose his clause. That clause was now a model clause, and had been put in every Tramway Act in the United Kingdom in spite of a Liberal President of the Board of Trade. He desired to move the rejection of this Bill (of which he had given notice) mainly, first, because he objected to the purchase of the docks at all, and secondly, he considered that they were proposing to pay too much for them. In the third place——
Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 183; Noes, 18. (Division List No. 78.)339
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Dickinson, W. H.(St. Pancras, N)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Duncan, C.(Barrow-in-Furness|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)|
|Baker, Joseph A.(Finsbury, E)||Byles, William Pollard||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Cameron, Robert||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Erskine, David C.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Cleland, J. W||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Clough, William||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Barry, Redmond J.(Tyrone, N.)||Clynes. J. R.||Faber, G. H.(Boston)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Fell, Arthur|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonp'rt||Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W||Fenwick, Charles|
|Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Ferens, T. R.|
|Bennett, E. N||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Findlay, Alexander|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.(Essex, Romf'd||Cremer, Sir William Randal||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Bethell, T. R.(Essex, Maldon)||Crooks, William||Fullerton, Hugh|
|Boland, John||Crossley, William J.||Gibb, James (Harrow)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Curran, Peter Francis||Gill, A. H.|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John|
|Branch, James||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Glover, Thomas|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Brooke, Stopford||Devlin, Joseph||Grant, Corrie|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Grayson, Albert Victor|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||M'Laren, H. D.(Stafford, W.)||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||M'Micking, Major G.||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Gulland, John W.||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Gurdon, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Brampton||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Marnham, F. J.||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|Hall, Frederick||Micklem, Nathaniel||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Hart-Davies, T.||Molteno, Percy Alport||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Taylor, John W.(Durham)|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Myer, Horatio||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||Tomkinson, James|
|Hogan, Michael||Nolan, Joseph||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Toulmin, George|
|Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Verney, F. W.|
|Horniman, Emslie John||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wadsworth, J.|
|Hudson, Walter||O'Malley, William||Walsh, Stephen|
|Idris, T. H. W.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent|
|Jenkins, J.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Waring, Walter|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wason, Rt. Hn. E (Clackmannan|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Weir, James Galloway|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Radford, G. H.||Whitbread, Howard|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Red, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||White, Luke (York, E. R)|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Lambert, George||Ridsdale, E. A.||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Lamont, Norman||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh., N.)|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd||Wilson, P. W. (St. Paneras, S.)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Robinson, S.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Young, Samuel|
|Lupton, Arnold||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|MacVeigh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Sears, J. E.||Whiteley and Mr. Herbert Lewis.|
|MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Seddon, J.|
|M'Callum, John M.||Seely, Colonel|
|M'Crae, George||Shackleton, David James|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hodge, John||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Jowett, F. W.||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Forster, Henry William||O'Grady, J.|
|Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Ronaldshay, Earl of||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Gretton, John||Rowlands, J.||Mr. Morton and Mr. Steadman.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons.—(Mr. Kearley.)
§ Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.—(Mr. Kearley.)